Voting Rights Watch: Report reveals a new generation of online voter suppression

As allegations of voter fraud and voter suppression lead headlines this week, some civil rights and election protection organizations are working to expose what they call "a new generation of online deceptive practices" designed to mislead and intimidate voters.

Common Cause, The Century Foundation and The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released Monday a report entitled Deceptive Practices 2.0: Legal and Policy Responses, which describes potential online dirty tricks to disseminate false or misleading information over the Internet.

The report's release follows recent media accounts of deceptive emails targeting Texas voters with misinformation about the functionality of voting machines in that state. The report hopes to outline online voter-suppression tactics that could potentially misinform voters during the November election, such as false websites designed to look like official government sites containing the wrong information about voting, denial-of-service attacks to jam information sites, and robocalls with false information.

According to the report:
In the last several election cycles, "deceptive practices" have been perpetrated in order to suppress voting and skew election results. Usually targeted at minorities and in minority neighborhoods, deceptive practices are the intentional dissemination of false or misleading information about the voting process with the intent to prevent an eligible voter from casting a ballot. It is an insidious form of vote suppression that often goes unaddressed by authorities and the perpetrators are virtually never caught. Historically, deceptive practices have taken the form of flyers distributed in a particular neighborhood; more recently, with the advent of new technology "robocalls" have been employed to spread misinformation. Now, the fear is deceptive practices 2.0: false information disseminated via the Internet, email and the new media.
The report also examines existing state and federal laws that might be used to stop these troubling scams, finding that while many laws are not adequate, some laws currently on the books in many states can be used to address online voter suppression.

"Misinformation campaigns, such as false flyers or intimidating robocalls, often aimed at minority communities, are not new," Tova Wang, Common Cause vice president for research, said in a press release. "What this report demonstrates is the very real danger that in this election these tactics will be replicated online. Given what we've already seen during this presidential campaign and the Internet rumors already circulating, the much more widespread dissemination of false information through the Internet is a real danger."

Report authors request that if anyone receives an email with false information or sees a spoofed website with misinformation to forward that information by reporting it here. Election Protection, a national nonpartisan voter-protection coalition, is urging voters to seek out accurate information -- voters can also call the Election Protection Hotline, 866-OURVOTE to report any deceptive practices or receive voting information.