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SILS professors offer election analyses in national publications

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Zeynep Tufekci, and Francesca Tripodi, faculty members at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS) and researchers with the Center for Information, Techology, and Public Life (CITAP), recently wrote columns for national publications examining different aspects of the presidential election.

McMillan Cottom and Tufekci each had an op-eds in the New York Times the week of Nov. 3.

Portraits of Zeynep Tufekci, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Francesca Tripodi
Zeynep Tufekci, Tressie McMillan Cottom, and Francesca Tripodi

Tufecki’s column, “Can We Finally Agree to Ignore Election Forecasts?”, appeared a few days before the election in the Sunday edition. In the op-ed, Tufekci encourages voters to disregard statisticians’ election models and explains why their methodology is flawed. “Instead of refreshing the page to update predictions, people should do the only thing that actually affects the outcome: vote, donate and organize,” she advises.

McMillan Cottom’s Nov. 7 op-ed, “The Danger in White Moderates Setting Biden’s Agenda,” outlines the approach that she believes President-Elect Joe Biden should take to effectively govern the country. “The moment calls for radical direct state response to public crisis — big government projects, direct aid, swelling rhetoric,” she writes. “The moderate/centrist impulse will be to do less, but to govern, a Biden administration will need to do more,” she writes.

Tufekci offers post-election insights in a column for The Atlantic titled “America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent.” She compares and contrasts Donald Trump’s performance as president with other authoritarian figures across the globe and explains how Republicans can exploit their minority control to help set the stage for a populist candidate “with a penchant for governing rather than golf.”

“Pearl-clutching for the good old days will not get us out of this,” Tufekci warns. “Yes, it’s important to highlight the value of norms and call for the restoration of democratic institutions. But what we need in order to move forward goes beyond more politeness and the right rhetoric. The failures of the past aren’t to be yearned for. They’re to be avoided and, crucially, understood and fixed.”

For Slate, Tripodi explains why politicians continue to accuse big tech platforms like Facebook and Google of suppressing conservative viewpoints. In “Conservatives Are Gearing Up to Falsely Blame Big Tech Censorship for Trump’s Loss,” published Nov. 9, Tripodi dissects the misleading research that Republicans often cite in their claims and offers evidence and examples that contradict this belief. “The truth is that these companies have no vested interest in democracy—they are corporations that profit by operationalizing relevance,” she writes.

In addition to these op-eds, Tripodi, Tufekci, McMillan Cottom, and other CITAP researchers were cited and quoted in stories by multiple news outlets. While the race was still undecided, McMillan Cottom spoke with Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. For more interviews and updates on CITAP researchers, visit the CITAP homepage or subscribe to the CITAP newsletter.