Key issues to follow in 2024

9 minutes
Key issues to follow in 2024
"Collage with democratic elections, media, microphones, television and AI with a futuristic vibe", interpreted by Dall-E.

The last few leap years have been turbulent times for social media and democracy. 2016 was the year of political campaigns driven by Cambridge Analytica data and electoral turning points that meant the triumph of Donald Trump, the approval of Brexit and the rejection of the Peace Accord in Colombia. For its part, 2020 left a wave of pandemic-related disinformation and was the scene of an inflammatory election in the United States.

We enter 2024 with several lessons learned from these events, reflected in a new regulatory environment. This year, however, has the added ingredient of artificial intelligence (AI) at everyone's fingertips, a hectic election calendar and the dramatic transformation of some social networks. Here, some key topics to pay attention to in 2024.

A year of ballot boxes

According to forecasts, 2024 is likely to break the record for the largest number of voters in history. Among others, presidential elections will be held in the United States and India, as well as voting for the European Parliament. In the region, six countries will elect their new heads of state: El Salvador, Panama, Dominican Republic, Mexico, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Incipiently, generative AI made its debut in Latin American electoral campaigns in 2023, where it was used to create false ads and to manipulate public opinion regarding certain candidates. As these techniques advance and new models are launched, the use of AI will increase in all electoral contests.

This does not mean that 2024 will be the year of AI domination. For Katie Harbath, a consultant and former director of public policy at Facebook, the use of generative models will not yet have the scale that many imagine. Similar to last year, the conversation is likely to continue to revolve around the potential risks of these technologies rather than their actual impact.

Meanwhile, the elections in Latin America will continue to use the coordinated operations that have been deployed in the past in countries such as Mexico, El Salvador - where Nayib Bukele aspires to reelection - or Venezuela, and which have implemented bots and massive propaganda channels to favor governments or discredit political opponents.

This year's electoral flurry, especially related to processes in the European Union, is likely to test the provisions of the Digital Services Act. This regulation, which came into force last August, obliges large social media platforms and other internet companies to take measures to identify and mitigate risks related to electoral integrity in that territory.

GPT News

At the end of 2023, Google announced the launch of its "Generative Search Experience" in several Latin American countries. With this feature, still in the testing phase, searches on the world's most used website will return AI-generated answers from other sources available on the Internet. By summarizing information in this way, users' interest in accessing the news pages that originally produced it is diminished, affecting traffic to media websites, which receive about half of their visits through these platforms, as highlighted by a research by the Oxford Internet Institute last year.

The function poses new challenges for the situation of journalism in the region, whose reach has been affected in recent times. As recorded at the end of 2023, news sites in Colombia suffered a drop of about 40% in visits, which may be associated with changes in Facebook and X algorithms. The incursion of the Generative Search Experience could deepen this crisis and force the media to rethink once again their business model, as pointed out by Juanita León, director of the Colombian media La Silla Vacía.

Additionally, 2024 will be the year in which we will see major court decisions on the training of AI models with copyrighted material, including news. At the forefront is the lawsuit filed in late December by The New York Times against OpenAI and Microsoft. According to the media outlet, the companies copied millions of its publications to train their AI models, the results of which now reproduce its articles almost verbatim and mimic its editorial style, thereby "directly competing" with its content and affecting its subscription, advertising and licensing revenues.

Former Twitter

Perhaps 2024 will be the year when when talking about X it will no longer be necessary to say "formerly Twitter," not only because the new name will finally permeate the social networking vocabulary, but because there will be very little left of the company Elon Musk bought in October 2022.

If the owner's plans to turn X into "the app of allthings" continue, i.e. a network that competes with video platforms, work, messaging services or dating apps, 2024 will be the year that defines the fate of the artist formerly known as Twitter. Musk's plans, in any case, do not depend exclusively on his will, but on the financial and technical capacity of the company, to which the change of direction has cost much of its human capital and its ad revenues.

Unlike in 2016 and 2020, X is likely to play a less prominent role in the U.S. presidential campaign. For its part, its main competitor, Threads, will find in the elections a new test of its growth and an opportunity to focus more political and news conversations.

But while in the United States X is losing its relevance, in Latin America - where it is the dissemination organ of some governments and where Threads still does not seem to take off - it still has the possibility of being an epicenter of discussion. The arrival of Javier Milei to the presidency of Argentina has drawn Musk's attention to the politics of the region. The relationship between the two, in addition to a certain ideological affinity, also has a commercial character. In the announcement of the Decree of Necessity and Urgency issued by Milei in the first days of his government, the president indicated that within the package of measures would be the release of satellite services, "to allow the arrival of companies such as Starlink", which is also owned by Musk. At the same time, the entrepreneur has shared on his X account -the largest on the platform- publications in favor of the electoral reforms proposed by the Argentinean president.

This article originally appeared in Botando Corriente, our newsletter. You can subscribe here:

go home