Electoral Confusion: Contending with Structural Disinformation in Communities of Color

Protect Democracy partnered with Professor Samuel Woolley, the Director of the Propaganda Research Lab at the University of Texas at Austin, to conduct a qualitative research study of the threat that election disinformation poses to communities of color and how to mitigate its effects. Our study—published in June 2022—focused on three battleground states—Arizona, Georgia, and Wisconsin—and found that online disinformation is just one part of the failures in the information ecosystem that disproportionately harm voters of color. This study follows a November 2021 landscape analysis that Professor Woolley and his team conducted for Protect Democracy.

With would-be authoritarians seeking and gaining power at all levels of government, it is essential that voters have access to reliable, trusted information so they can make their voices heard in our elections. Directly engaging voters is a resource-intensive but vital effort in communities where the legacy of voter suppression and continuing information failures leave them particularly vulnerable to the effects of disinformation. We hope the findings from this project will help to break the cycle of information inequality and false narratives that perpetuate the disenfranchisement of millions of Americans of color.

Read the White Paper

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About the Authors

Samuel Woolley

Assistant professor, University of Texas at Austin

Samuel C. Woolley is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and an assistant professor, by courtesy, in the School of Information--both at the University of Texas at Austin.

Mark Kumleben

Disinformation Researcher, University of Texas

Mark Kumleben is a disinformation researcher at the Center for Media Engagement (CME) at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) who studies technology in its social and cultural context. His recent work focuses on social media, computational propaganda, and combating disinformation.