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Sens. Fred Thompson and John McCain at a 2007 Republican debate. Photo: STAN HONDA/AFP via Getty Images

Tech companies have increasingly been participating as co-hosts or sponsors of political debates. But this cycle, two of the biggest tech giants, Facebook and Google, are so far noticeably absent from the Democratic primary debates.

Why it matters: Google and its video subsidiary YouTube, as well as Facebook, first partnered with TV networks for debates during the 2008 presidential cycle. Their presence has continued as a part of subsequent debates until this year.

  • In 2007, YouTube was the first of today's major tech platforms to partner with a TV network, CNN, for a televised debate. Candidates answered questions from constituents that came from YouTube videos.
  • Later that cycle, Facebook partnered with ABC News to co-sponsor a debate and created a special comments "soundboard" for users to post on in real-time while the debate aired on live TV.
  • MySpace partnered with the Commission on Presidential Debates in 2008 on a series of interactive features for the debates that allowed users to review candidates online while watching the debates.

Fast forward: Now Facebook and Google, as well as some of their other tech rivals, are facing scrutiny from lawmakers and presidential candidates for the way that their platforms can be used to spread misinformation and manipulate elections.

Driving the news: The Democratic National Committee announced on Thursday the hosts of the next four presidential debates in the first four primary and caucus states.

  • Both Facebook and Google were missing from the list of debate partners, but Apple News and Twitter were included. Facebook isn’t likely to participate in any primary debates this cycle.
  • The February 7 debate in New Hampshire will serve as Apple News' first debate. Apple launched Apple News+, a subscription magazine and news app, in March 2019.
  • Twitter will partner with CBS News and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute for a debate on February 25 in Charleston, South Carolina.

How it works: In situations where broadcasters host debates that feature partnerships or sponsorships from tech companies, the financial burden is typically placed on the broadcaster for the majority of debate expenses.

  • The tech companies will sometimes strike deals with the networks to handle other costs, like the costs to set up a filing center for press or a post-debate spin room.
  • For companies like Twitter, the opportunity to partner with a network isn't just a branding play, but it can also be a chance to showcase how its platform can benefit civic discourse and participation.
  • For example, Twitter helped field debate questions from voters to candidates in real-time in 2015. Sources say it's likely the company will look to do similar things in 2020.

By the numbers: By Axios' count, there were 7 primary debates on both sides that were co-hosted by or partnered with tech companies during the 2016 cycle. So far this cycle, there have been 2 — but there have only been debates on one side of the political aisle.

Be smart: For voters, the tech partnerships can sometimes help bring them closer to the debate, by giving them a chance to ask questions or register reactions. As a result, whatever challenges the companies face during this election cycle, these partnerships are likely with us for the long haul.

Go deeper

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after third woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.

Scoop: Trump talked out of early Ohio endorsement

Jane Timken at a 2017 Trump rally. Photo: Kyle Mazza/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Donald Trump had to be talked out of making an early endorsement in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race, a sign of his eagerness to reengage politically, people familiar with the conversations tell Axios.

What we're hearing: The former president discussed endorsing former state GOP chair Jane Timken last week during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago with RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, but top advisers — including Donald Trump Jr. — urged him to wait.