Press Release: New Initiative to Stop Digital Voter Suppression during 2020 Election

For Immediate Release
September 3, 2020
Contact: Jill Foster, 202.203.0255, [email protected]

Washington, DC— Stop Online Violence Against Women (SOVAW) has announced today the launch of a new Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project to ensure American votes will not be suppressed by the online disinformation campaigns which have taken root in U.S. politics. The new project, which has the endorsement of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, Black Women’s Roundtable, MoveOn.org, and others, will focus on messages that use digital media to suppress the votes of targeted communities through disinformation originating from foreign or domestic sources. The data and testimonies collected by the new project are evidence of the most recent digital voter suppression tactics being used in the 2020 U.S. election. The launch of the Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project follows previous reports issued by SOVAW, which was the first organization to publicly identify that Russian Internet Research Agency ads were used for the purposes of the suppression of Black voters in the 2016 and 2018 U.S. elections. 

“Foreign actors and their U.S.-based domestic counterparts are aware of the importance of voters of color, particularly African-American voters,” said Shireen Mitchell, founder of Stop Online Violence Against Women and lead researcher of the project. “While the suppression of Black voters started well before the Jim Crow era, it previously only relied on physical media such as paper fliers or posters. Now, with the social media space, we are documenting election materials distributed from domestically-based actors, as well as from overseas actors, that engage in digital voter suppression,” she said. 

“Foreign actors,” she added, “are free of the confines of law or international doctrines to engage in lies and disinformation to alter the 2020 election for their favor.”

From now until the end of the year, the Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project will collect data, as well as testimonies and material directly from voters and online sources; we will be issuing status reports on digital voter suppression tactics and their impact on the 2020 election. 

“The Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project is intended to help ensure a fair and safe election for everyone by identifying effective, enduring strategies to address national, state, local, and regional efforts to silence Black and brown American voices (and their collective power),” Mitchell said. “Our project will continue to expose these strategies by bad actors, and will be shared publicly with state leaders and those working toward getting out the vote.” 

“No single group of American voters has been targeted by aggressive digital voter suppression campaigns more than Black people,” said Melanie Campbell, President & CEO of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and convener of the Black Women’s Roundtable. 

“Online disinformation campaigns intended to confuse and discourage Black people from casting their voting ballots are a threat to the integrity of American democracy. This threat presents an urgent need to defend our national security from foreign and domestic voter suppression and election interference. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation (NCBCP) and the Black Women’s Roundtable (the women and girls empowerment arm of NCBCP) are proud to partner with the Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project in its mission to serve as a watchdog to call out digital voter suppression campaigns that target Black voters and identify fake social media accounts and tactics used to deter Black people from voting. We share in the Stop Digital Voter SuppressionTM Project’s belief that bringing awareness and an end to digital voter suppression will help to protect the integrity of elections and ensure that American democracy survives.” 

Brittany Packnett Cunningham, activist, educator and writer said of the project: “Protecting the vote is one of the single greatest fights we must win to protect the ideals of democracy.”

“Voter suppression of every kind is a major threat to each of our ability to live thriving lives-and digital voter suppression is the insidious new manifestation of injustice that we must pay close attention to,” Cunningham said. “Stopping digital voter suppression is one of the most important civil rights issues of our time. We must listen closely to what experts are telling us-and act swiftly to protect and expand our most precious franchise.”

The Stop Online Violence Against Women’s previous report: On the Ongoing Threat to the 2020 Election: Digital Voter Suppression is available here

Stop Online Violence Against Women Inc. is a nonprofit that addresses inadequate laws and policies that lack protections for women in particular women of color. We focus on online violence against women, laws and policy changes needed at the local and federal levels. We also focus on technology and social media company accountability. SOVAW serves as a resource of services and options for women and women of color, based on their level of harassment or violence. We report on these diverse issues (and their impact) for those who are willing to share their stories.