16 predictions for social networks in 2020


And just like that, we’ve reached the final issue of the year — and also, somehow, the decade. As is tradition around here, let’s close out the year with some predictions from you about where platforms and democracy are headed in 2020 and beyond.

Thanks to everyone who contributed. Here are your thoughts, along with some of mine. This year, I’m ordering these in roughly how likely I think they are. So, the most likely things to happen at the top, and we move further into crazy town as you scroll down. Generally speaking, I feel more comfortable predicting product moves than policy shifts. But we’ll see!

Social platforms continue to struggle with disinformation and its consequences. An obvious point, maybe, but Blake Bowyer makes it in a compelling way. He argues that Facebook’s decision not to fact-check political ads leads to misinformation campaigns and their awful second-order consequences, such as Pizzagate. Facebook is going to get beat up every time a major politician lies on its platform in 2019 unless — until? — it reverses its policy. (Joe Albanese, a former Facebook employee himself, predicts the company will do just that.)

Metrics keep going invisible. Instagram reportedly ditched like counts because it led to people — particularly young people — posting more. If that proves true elsewhere, expect more metrics to disappear in 2020, reader M.D. predicts.

The flight from feeds to curation. Algorithms fade a bit into the background in 2020 as human editors return to the big aggregators. They’re already working on Facebook’s new news tab, on Apple News, and on editorial teams at Twitter and Snap. Even Google says it is beginning to take into account the quality of original reporting in its suggested news stories. All of this is welcome, even if feeds still command the lion’s share of attention.

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