Last December proved to be extremely eventful worldwide. From controversial legislation in Indonesia prompting new global discourse about human rights to a Taylor Swift concert ticket sale gone awry forcing the US Congress to confront monopolies, here are a few noteworthy stories to follow with repercussions that will continue to affect the new year.
Taylor Swift vs. Ticketmaster
In early December, Ticketmaster, the global entertainment company and “world’s largest ticket marketplace” fell under scrutiny after failing to provide eager Taylor Swift fans with tickets and engaging in anti-competitive behaviour. Twenty-six fans filed a complaint against Ticketmaster and its parent company Live Nation after cancelling the public sale of fifty-two shows of Swift’s Eras Tour.
According to fan accounts, hopeful attendees queued online for hours, exclusively selling presale and sale tickets via the Ticketmaster Secondary Ticket Exchange platform. The fan’s complaint described waiting hours for ticket sales, only to be met with an insufficient amount of ticket releases and secondary ticket prices for as much as $22,000, according to the Guardian.
Jennifer Kinder, a lawyer representing the fans, stated in an interview with the New York Times that “This is not a fair market. This is not supply and demand. This is a manipulated market that benefits Ticketmaster”. Live Nation, which merged with Ticketmaster in 2010, controls an estimated 60% of the market for promotion of major concerts and events, according to Reuters.
The Live Nation president, Joe Berchtold, has cited “bot attacks'' for the disruptions of ticket sales and a “terrible consumer experience”. However, while 2.2 million tickets were sold, the company controlled market prices through “artificially high pre-sale, sale, and re-sale prices on fans”. Ticketmaster’s monopolistic practices have drawn criticism from the US Senate; Senator Amy Klobuchar, in an interview with MSNBC, stated of Ticketmaster’s market control: “in truth, there is no other choice. It is a monopoly”.
Jan. 6 Investigative Report Published
The Select House Committee published their investigation of the January 6 2021 Capitol insurrection, accessible in full to the public as of December 22, 2022. The document, over 845 pages long, outlines the details of the Jan. 6 riot but specifically details evidence of former President Donald Trump’s connection to the insurrection. Specifically, the report suggests four criminal referrals against Trump, arguing that “none of the events of the January 6th would have happened without him”.
The report also outlines evidence of the scheme by former President Trump to overturn the 2020 elections and a recommendation to release six years of tax returns. While the referrals are not legally binding and therefore will not definitively move forward with criminal charges, this publication represented a step towards accountability for the events of Jan. 6. Representative Jamie Raskin of Maryland stated: “The gravest offense in constitutional terms is the attempt to overthrow a presidential election and bypass the constitutional order. Subsidiary to all of that are a whole host of statutory offenses, which support the gravity and magnitude of that violent assault on America.”
Among Trump, the Committee gave criminal referrals for Mark Meadows, former White House chief of staff, who was held in criminal contempt for refusal to testify and abide by a subpoena. Similarly, lawyer John Eastman, Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark and lawyer Rudy Giuliani received criminal referrals for their part in the Jan. 6 riot and scheme to overturn the 2020 election.
Biden’s $1.66 Trillion Spending Package
On December 29, the House of Representative passed President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion government spending bill. Passed marginally before the end of Democratic control of Congress, the bill amassed funds to Ukrainian military assistance and almost $40 billion in disaster relief, as well as enhancing Capitol Hill security in response to the January 6 insurrection and implementing Missouri Senator Josh Hawley’s ban of TikTok on phones issued for use by the personnel of federal government agencies.
The spending bill also introduced two landmark changes to election law, following Donald Trump’s 2020 claims of voter fraud after presidential elections. The Electoral Count Reform Act and the Presidential Transition Improvement Act revise the 1887 Electoral Count Act and the 1963 Presidential Transition Act to maintain transparency in elections. This legislation requires a one-fifth approval of both the House and Senate to challenge a state’s results, and aims to “prevent another Jan. 6”.
Also included in the bill was $45 billion in aid to Ukraine, following Ukrainian President Zelenskyy’s plea to Congress for support. Zelenskyy’s address to Congress on December 21 prompted mixed responses, Ohio Senator Rob Portman tweeted that Zelenskyy’s address “was an inspiring call to action for America.” Meanwhile, Arizona Representative Paul Gosar stated: “Not one red cent should go to Ukraine while our border is open”
Indonesian Criminal Codes
A new criminal code passed in Indonesia banned sex outside marriage, punishable by up to one year in jail. This code evolved from a draft presented to Indonesian Parliament three years ago, which had prompted days of student protest in 2019. Alongside extramarital sex bans, the new criminal code makes insulting the president or vice-president imprisonable, as well as criminalising unpermitted protest.
In an interview with the BBC, Andreas Harsono from Human Rights Watch stated the introduction of “living law” is the most worrisome. Harsono claimed: “This is one of the most dangerous part of the new criminal code. It did not exist in the old code. The living law could be used to implement narrow religious or customary practices such as female genital mutilation, child marriage, manditory hijab rules or polygamy.”
The Indonesian criminal code, which was first introduced under Dutch colonial rule, has been reconsidered perennially. Indonesia’s Press Council in November of 2022 asked President Joko Widodo to withhold the passing of the criminal code, in fear of censorship- but to no avail.