Who’s missing from the debate stage this primary season?

Tech companies have been increasingly involved in co-sponsoring debates (both primary and general) since 2007, but YouTube (Google) and Facebook are nowhere to be seen this year.


December 16, 2019

Here’s a hint: If you Google it, you’ll have half your answer. Under lawmaker scrutiny for facilitating the spread of misinformation and election manipulation, Google and Facebook have been missing from the Democratic primary debates.

They led the charge in bringing social media to the stage

In 2007, YouTube — owned by Google — buddied up with CNN to feed constituent questions to candidates via video, making it the first social platform to bridge the voter/politician gap on live TV.

Facebook followed suit, creating a “soundboard” for viewers to post real-time reactions during a debate televised by ABC News.

By signing on as debate co-hosts or sponsors — typically alongside TV networks — these platforms get to flex their civic bona fides by giving voice to voters.

This is awkward, but…

So far, there have been 5 Democratic primary debates. Last week, the Democratic National Committee announced the dates, locations, and hosts for its next 4 debates — and Facebook and YouTube are nowhere to be seen.

Which means it’s time for someone else to shine

Apple News will host the New Hampshire debate on February 7. This is a big get for Apple News+, a subscription app that launched this spring.  

Along with CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute, Twitter will co-host the South Carolina debate on February 25. Twitter is expected to funnel voter questions directly to debate moderators.

Some speculate that Facebook won’t make an appearance at all this season. But it’s clear that tech companies provide something valuable to public discourse, and this techlash could be fleeting.

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