Volume 4, Issue 2 (2020) Download


“I believe freedom begins with naming things.” Eve Ensler When the American Dialect Society made “fake news” its 2017 “Word of the Year,” the press release suggested two related reasons for the organization’s decision. The first was the term’s ubiquity. The second was its slipperiness. Beyond referring to propaganda, the term fake news had become […]

Especially in the wake of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there is increasing debate about how and why to regulate political speech posted on social media platforms, and whether such regulation is possible or desirable. Initially, such debates focused on the concept, production, and circulation of “fake news.” As politicians like President Trump co-opted the […]

Misinformation is not a new problem. As long as information is valuable in helping people make decisions, there will be an incentive for third parties to manipulate that information in a way beneficial to their interests. The result is misinformation, which has taken many forms over the years. Misinformation has a variety of definitions. In […]

The assertion that “sunlight is the best disinfectant,” sometimes stated as “light disinfects,” is so common on the contemporary Internet that it often goes without saying. It’s just true, no argument is needed. When someone does situate the term, the attribution invariably goes to Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, who in 1913 wrote that “sunlight […]

Political identification in the digital age has shifted online: increasingly, people define their political identity in how they come together around issues and news events on the social web. We adopt online political identities in three major ways: through shared consumption of information on social media platforms; through participation in political movements through hashtags and […]

Every decade, the U.S. Census Bureau undertakes its constitutional mandate to count every person once, only once, and in the right place. The 2020 Census is the nation’s first “digital” decennial census; for the first time in its history, the Bureau has invited the majority of the public to participate using an online self-response portal. […]

Picture Election Day. It is probably a Tuesday (though not necessarily). Check-in tables in the high-school gymnasium sort voters by precinct, while plastic privacy screens fill the engine house of a nearby fire station. Some voters return ballots to drop boxes, while others mailed theirs back days ago. Voting remains a manual process in an […]

In the weeks preceding the 2016 United States presidential election several images began making the rounds on Twitter. The graphics sought to “remind” Democrats that they could vote via text message. According to The Wall Street Journal, they were built to resemble genuine “get-out-the-vote material produced by Hillary Clinton’s campaign.” Many included the “Paid for […]

From Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Era, voter intimidation typically took the form of flagrant, violent targeting of blacks and their political supporters. However, in recent decades, those attempting to suppress the vote have embraced more subtle, cynical, and creative methods. Increasingly, voters are being subjected to false information about voter requirements, aggressive questioning about […]

A consequence of our federalist system and tradition is that even though U.S. elections are organized around a national hierarchy, they are executed in a highly decentralized manner, with each state responsible for setting its own standards and procedures for registering voters, casting ballots, and counting votes. The federal government sets broad standards for such […]

There is no perfect, infallible way to count votes. All methods— including optical scan, touchscreen, and hand counting—are subject to errors, procedural lapses, and deliberate manipulation. Almost all U.S. jurisdictions count their votes using computer-based technology, such as touchscreens and optical-scan machines. Computer-based methods are subject to “hacking,” that is, the replacement of legitimate vote-counting […]

Internet voting is the return of voted ballots over the Internet, using a computer, a tablet, or a smart phone. The voted ballot may be transmitted via a web portal, as a PDF or other attachment, or as a fax. IF I CAN BANK ONLINE, WHY CAN’T I VOTE ONLINE? That is a question we […]

More than thirty election-security bills have been introduced in Congress, but most have been stalled in the Senate and no major legislation has been enacted. The bills would require states to make greater use of paper ballots and paper trails, adopt effective audit procedures, and strengthen federal cybersecurity support for state and local election authorities. […]

Finding a silver lining associated with Cambridge Analytica can be difficult. The notion of a private organization using licit and illicit means to undermine elections around the world for profit is hard to reconcile with liberal democratic values. A brief sampling of the myriad allegations against the U.K.-based data analytics firm include: sharing detailed information […]

Too often, combatting public safety and disinformation on the Internet is presented as a false choice between continuing to allow platforms free reign to set rules of the road for our digital media ecosystem and giving the government more control over the content flowing across the networks. Currently, the government in India is moving to […]

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA) has provided broad immunity to Internet service providers since 1996. Today, Section 230’s protections are a ripe target for those concerned about the unanticipated power and reach of the small number of giants that have emerged to dominate the digital landscape. But for those specifically concerned about […]

According to conventional wisdom, legislative efforts to limit platform-based electoral manipulation—including especially laws that go beyond simply mandating additional disclosure about advertising expenditures—are most likely doomed to swift judicial invalidation for two reasons. First, although one might wonder whether the data-driven, algorithmic activities that enable and invite such manipulation ought to count as protected speech […]

Technology Explainers

The Russian attacks on voter registration databases preceding the 2016 Election “changed the narrative” about election security, highlighting a new avenue for adversarial foreign nation-states to interfere with the U.S.’s elections: the cyberattack. This Technology Explainer will analyze how cyberattacks function in elections, which election systems are most vulnerable to these attacks, and how cyberattacks […]

Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) is an emerging new spectrum of technologies focused on revolutionizing how data is stored. While often discussed in tandem with cryptocurrencies, not all DLTs are cryptocurrencies; instead the term DLT covers any approach to data storage across multiple ledgers. A ledger is a record of ownership and what is exchanged in […]

Bitcoin off-chain transactions are transactions in bitcoin that are not recorded on the blockchain. Today, most bitcoin transactions occur off-chain. This dynamic runs counter to the quintessential principle espoused in the initial white paper conceptualizing bitcoin—that transactions would be immutably and reliably recorded on a public ledger. As regulators voice concerns over bitcoin’s divorce from […]

Election technology is democracy’s critical infrastructure and must withstand manipulation from inside and outside forces. But in recent years, contested recounts have raised procedural questions. Reports issued on Russia’s attempts to influence the 2016 presidential election reveal other system vulnerabilities. Security experts and the House of Representatives have called for a return to paper ballots. […]

In 2006, when Netflix was just a DVD rental service, it offered a $1 million prize to the team that could improve Netflix’s movie recommendation algorithm by ten percent. The competition became an academic lightning rod—thousands of teams entered and their work produced dozens of academic works. During the first year of the competition, several […]