This Election: Deceptive Practices 2.0?

For Immediate Release

Common Cause
Contact: 

Mary Boyle, (202) 736-5770

This Election: Deceptive Practices 2.0?

Report Exposes New Generation of Online Voter Suppression

WASHINGTON - Amid daily reports of voter suppression and dirty tricks in
the 2008 Presidential election, major civil rights organizations today
released a report exposing a worrying new generation of online
deceptive practices designed to mislead and intimidate voters. The
report, released by Common Cause, The Century Foundation and The
Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is entitled Deceptive Practices 2.0: Legal And Policy Responses and describes potential online dirty tricks to disseminate false or misleading information over the Internet.

Its release follows recent media accounts of deceptive emails targeting Texas voters with misinformation about the functionality of voting machines in that state. In
the last several election cycles, deceptive practices have been common:
often targeted at minorities, these dirty tricks have taken many forms,
from false flyers to misleading "robocalls." Now, experts fear the
widespread circulation of false information disseminated via the
Internet, email and other 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. 

Reporters and bloggers are also invited to join an
informal roundtable discussing these reports in more depth from 2-3pm
at EPIC's offices at 1718 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 200,
Washington, DC. To RSVP to this roundtable please call 202-483-1140 x
111.

"Misinformation campaigns, such as false flyers or
intimidating robocalls, often aimed at minority communities, are not
new," said Tova Wang, Common Cause vice president for research. "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."

"Our organizations have always been dedicated to giving voters
the tools they need to make sure they are able to cast a meaningful
ballot," said Jonah Goldman, director of the National Campaign for Fair
Elections at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. "We
realize that in the digital age, we need to inform voters as to how to
protect themselves against these new scams."

The report examines state anti-hacking and computer crimes
laws, as well as state laws regarding the unauthorized use of state
seals and the impersonation of public officials. At the federal level,
the report analyses the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, the
Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the Can-Spam Act in stopping online
misinformation campaigns. It also makes recommendations for how these
state and federal laws might be improved to stop the kind of efforts to
misinform voters that have proliferated during this presidential
campaign.

Common Cause and Election Protection are also requesting that
anyone who receives an email with false information or sees a spoofed
website with misinformation forward that information by going to www.commoncause.org/DeceptivePractices or forwarding suspect email messages to DeceptivePractices2008@gmail.com.
Voters can also call the Election Protection Hotline, 866-OURVOTE to
report any deceptive practices or receive voting information.

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