Pollsters, pundits and social networkers predicted change was coming, and come it did. With Republicans now the majority in the U.S. House and a shrunken Democratic majority ruling in the Senate, committees, priorities and the legislative agenda are bound to change.
Here are the top 5 ways the midterm election results will impact social media.
1) Committees will see leadership changes. The House Communications, Technology and the Internet subcommittee took a hit on election night, losing 12 members to either retirement or election loss. Most notably defeated was longtime Rep. Rick Boucher (D-Va.). Politico reports tech experts across the board call see his loss as “one less voice on top tech issues.” The Democratic losses could also put new faces on the subcommittee, including Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), a staunch privacy advocate.
2) Privacy will remain on the agenda. Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), current ranking member and potential new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, wasted no time in confirming that online privacy legislation will remain a priority with the GOP as the majority in the House.
“In the next Congress, the Energy and Commerce Committee and our subcommittees are going to put Internet privacy policies in the crosshair,” he said in a statement.
His comments come amidst a letter-writing battle between Facebook and Congress over various privacy concerns with the site. Rep. Barton’s Democratic colleague Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) also pledged to work with Republicans to keep the issue high on the agenda.
“I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure that Facebook personal user data isn’t siphoned off and sold to a data broker who can’t be unfriended,” he said.
3) New members bring new agendas. Of note in the election night victory column is the new Senator from Connecticut, current Attorney General Richard Blumenthal (D). As Attorney General Blumenthal pursued Craigslist over its adult-services listings and has lead a coalition of 37 states in investigating the collection of personal data by Google’s Street View cars. Also winning was current Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) who rises to become Missouri’s junior Senator. Blunt will bring to the upper chamber his staunch stance against net neutrality policies and his deep involvement in recent telecom issues like the transition from analog to digital television.
4) Tech money can’t buy you electoral victory. California saw two tech giants brought down in electoral defeat. Former eBay chief executive Meg Whitman (R) spent $141.5 million of her own money on her campaign but still fell to former governor Jerry Brown (D). Carly Fiorina, former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, also spent big but fell to incumbent Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) who made Fiorina’s tenure at HP a central issue of the campaign. Regardless of their political positions, both candidates would have brought a strong tech policy focus and experience to the state and federal levels.
5) Gridlock will reign supreme. Not specific to social media but certainly something that will have an impact is the gridlock certain to dominate a divided Congress and White House. The man likely to replace Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House, John Boehner (R-Ohio), immediately pledged to roll back the health care overhaul passed by Democrats this year. Pursuing that will be both time-consuming and near impossible with Democrats still in control of the Senate and presidential veto power that Republicans do not have enough votes to override. But, with that as a priority, along with seeking a “smaller, less costly, and more accountable government,” look for other legislative issues to fall aside.