There is no doubt that when people read about 2020 in the history books they will think—“What a crazy year!”—and it really was. With natural catastrophes, political chaos, and a global pandemic—at times, it felt like a disaster movie.
2021 isn’t going to magically solve the world’s problems, but the start of a new year offers some hope and an opportunity to reset—and while we are far from out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic, we have the ability to face the next 12 months with perspective and positivity.
So, what’s in store? Hopefully a lot of constructive change. Here are a few things we’ll be keeping tabs on in 2021.
1. Vaccine Rollout
There isn’t just one vaccine on the horizon, but several. In many parts of the world, frontline health workers are already receiving their shots, and over the next few months, vaccinations will become more accessible to the general public.
It is incredible how fast these vaccines were developed and it offers the world some much-needed hope. That being said—more than ever, it is imperative for all us to stay vigilant when it comes to following protocols (mask-wearing, social distancing) because 70-80% of the population needs to be immune from the virus to limit its spread. It’s a tall order but if we stay the course, we will get there.
2. Big Tech Antitrust Suits
It’s no secret that Big Tech is problematic—it is a business model that is built on using user data to make billions; puts user security/privacy at risk; and offers up platforms as breeding grounds for misinformation. So, is it possible to change the way these companies do business? Recently, Facebook and Google have been served with antitrust lawsuits for “allegedly abusing their monopoly power.” So, don’t be surprised if more tech-powerhouses are ‘served’ in the near future. It’s not just American tech companies that should be concerned with antitrust suits—in China, regulators are keeping a close eye on Alibaba.
Certainly, Big Tech isn’t going down without a fight—there is no doubt they’ll be ramping up their PR efforts by trying to convince the world that they’re victims of government overreach. At the end of the day, Big Tech may finally be brought down peg or two. Stay tuned.
3. Combatting the Infodemic
As mentioned above, the spread of misinformation is a problem. Never have the stakes for accurate information been higher. While health experts try their best to share timely and accurate information about Coronavirus—conspiracy theorists are working overtime to pump out a barrage of false and deceptive counter-narratives.
As this last year has shown us—an infodemic works hand-in-hand with the spread of a virus. Are we better equipped to handle it this year? Unfortunately, as long as there’s money to be made from misinformation, content mills will happily offer space to dangerous conspiracy theories. Will government regulators finally penalize those who spread fake news? If there were ever a time to make this happen, it is definitely now.
4. The End of Section 230?
Things aren’t looking good for Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. Section 230 provides tech companies with two major protections—the first one is the authority to moderate their online communities as they see fit and the second one protects them from liability when it comes to users’ posts. President Trump has been trying to get the law repealed—but mainly because he blames Section 230 “for allowing Twitter to put warning labels on his tweets.”
Trump even vetoed a defence bill because Congress refused to provide a repeal of Section 230.
Joe Biden has also shown that he’s not a fan of Section 230—Biden said the law should be “revoked, immediately.” Although, his reasons have to do with holding platforms accountable for the harmful propaganda that is posted on their sites—not because he’s mad his tweets were flagged for misinformation. Already, future administration officials have signalled their intent on reforming Section 230.
If Section 230 is repealed, it could mean the likes of Facebook and Twitter will be on the hook for misinformation campaigns that take place on their platforms. This could completely change how the Internet operates.
Here’s to good news and big changes in 2021!