Protecting Elections in the United States

Project

Exposing and shutting down harassment of local US election officials - and the economy that fuels it - online.
Our AI-driven investigation uncovered widespread harassment of local US elections officials on US social media - where this activity is posted, glorified, and generates income. Our initiative counters this threat to democracy to protect free elections in 2024 and beyond.
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Photograph by Chris Jones, January 6, 2022.

In recent surveys, one in three US election officials reports feeling unsafe in their jobs, and one in five reports a plan to quit their post. This leaves US democratic infrastructure dangerously vulnerable at a time of deepening partisan crisis. 

Social media is a major catalyst in this trend, and YouTube, the world's second largest website, is uniquely problematic. In 2022, Pluro Labs applied AI tools to complete the first systematic analysis of harassment of US election officials across a major social media platform.

Our findings were bracing: hundreds of channels - with collective views in the Billions - that proliferate, glorify, and monetize the harassment, denigration, and doxxxing of election and public officials across the United States. We also found that many of the involved actors - including tech platforms - generate profit off of these abuses - comprising a major online economy fueling anti-democratic activity.

Such activity - through both disruption and disinformation - makes US democratic infrastructure dangerously vulnerable at a time of deepening partisan conflict and instability.

In 2024, armed with newfound data and insight into this phenomenon, Pluro Labs has partnered with leaders in the election integrity space to launch an initiative to counter this threat and deepen US electoral resilience ahead of the 2024 election cycle. The initiative has been shaped by - and will partner with - various organizations across democracy, law, public policy, media, and technology to:

  • Shut down revenue streams that finance and drive real world anti-democratic harassment - before the 2024 election
  • Prepare and better train election and local democratic officials for these tactics
  • Enable major journalism to expose this issue to the public and drive reform - to election administration and safety as well as digital platform moderation
  • Strengthen efforts to increase public and private funding protecting election security
  • Shape lasting policy changes in our information ecosystem clearly banning harassment of election officials

This initiative has benefitted from the expertise, operational capability, and collaboration of various organizations, including:

  • States United Democracy Center
  • Center for Tech and Civic Life
  • Trusted Elections Fund
  • UC Berkeley Human Rights Center

Stat

One in three election officials in the US says they feel unsafe in their jobs. One in five plans to quit.

"After Nightmare Year, Election Officials are Quitting"

New York Times, 2021