Student Note: The Pernicious Problem of Platform-Enabled Voter Intimidation
From Reconstruction through the Civil Rights Era, voter intimidation typically took the form of flagrant, violent targeting of blacks and their political supporters.1 However, in recent decades, those attempting to suppress the vote have embraced more subtle, cynical, and creative methods.2 Increasingly, voters are being subjected to false information about voter requirements, aggressive questioning about citizenship, and anonymous threats of harm designed to deter them from voting.3
As part of this transition to more inconspicuous forms of voter intimidation, individuals and political organizations have largely supplanted local law-enforcement officials and white-supremacist groups as the main perpetrators.4 Instead of polling places, these actors have taken to Internet platforms to suppress the franchise of minority voters. And for good reason: platforms are optimally suited for voter intimidation. Internet platforms allow for anonymous speech, amplify and polarize narratives, and can be manipulated through use of bots.5 The opaque environments these platforms form make it difficult for voters to confidently calculate risks to their safety and freedom when crowd-sourced threats and deception loom large.
Georgetown Law, J.D. 2020; The Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, M.A. 2015; Temple University, B.A. 2013.