SOVAW Reports

Facebook Ads that Targeted Voters Centered on Black American Culture with Voter Suppression as the End Game, October 11, 2018

Stop Online Violence Against Women released a report analyzing the 3,500 ads released by Congress that were bought by the Russian Internet Research Agency on Facebook. This report, using a brand new data visualization, reveals that the race-based focus of the Russian-purchased ads, which has been acknowledged in some reporting and previous studies, were in fact majority-focused on the themes of Black Identity and culture. The Black Identity ads were used in two-fold purpose, to engage in voter suppression of Black voters, while boosting voter turnout of White voters.

Though it has been reported that overwhelming the 3500 ads on Facebook by the Russian Internet Research Agency were targeting race, what’s been less noted is that the majority of these ads targeted Black American Culture. The 3,500 ads on Facebook by the Russian Internet Research agency were centered largely on Black American Culture over all other identity and race-based narratives. While the race-based focus of the Russian-purchased ads has been acknowledged in some reporting and previous studies, it has not been pointed out in the media that the themes of Black Identity and culture were the focus of the majority of the ads with the intent to engage in voter suppression of Black voters.

A threat to an American Democracy: Digital Voter Suppression
A Key Influence in the 2020 Elections, January 7, 2020

The report outlines both past and present disinformation campaigns used during the election cycles starting from 2016 leading up to today. It includes descriptions of disinformation campaigns as well as examples of digital voter suppression. The report offers multiple examples of images, political ads and data visualizations of current social networks that have the intent to suppress voters and target candidates.

Digital Voter Suppression, as we define it, includes several aspects; the use of online services/platforms to distribute inaccurate, misinformation, disinformation, false data, mobile messages, and/or images for the purpose of suppressing the vote during any election season. This is often used in conjunction with or addition to physical voter suppression activities that have a digital, social networking, technical or mobile component.

Targeting African American Voters: 2020 Ongoing Influence Operations Deciding US Senate Runoff Election in Georgia – December 11, 2020

The state of Georgia is currently undergoing a run-off election for two hotly contested Senate seats that could shift the power of the Senate to the Democratic party, tremendously altering the current political landscape going into 2021. African Americans make up the second-largest voter group in Georgia and are now under an influence operation geared toward flipping their votes and even stopping them from voting at all.

Many mainstream social media platforms have opted for little to no regulation around the type of content shared, using free speech as their defense. This has left communities to fend for themselves, giving a rise to citizen data scientists committed to using their expertise to map and combat the spread of disinformation.