Zeynep Tufecki breaks down the Iowa app debacle in new column for The Atlantic

February 4, 2020

Zeynep Tufecki, Associate Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), offers a detailed analysis of what went wrong in Iowa and outlines a more secure route for reporting results in her latest column for The Atlantic.

Who Needs the Russians? Don’t blame shadowy foreign hackers for the chaos in Iowa. Blame Shadow’s caucus app,” went live on the news magazine’s website less than 24 hours after the caucuses ended and the problems began.   

Tufecki reviews the many warning signs that the app would fail, including its short development time and lack of external review, and cites other examples of botched digital tools developed by politicians and the government. She also summarizes the various ways campaigns are trying to use the confusion to their advantage.

Tufecki concludes by reminding readers that the National Academy of Sciences released a report last year with evidence-based recommendations to maintain election integrity, and linking to her summary of their findings.

“Experts and civil-society organizations have been advocating for these changes for years,” she writes. “It would take just a bit of money and political will to fix much of this, and fairly quickly. Instead, we’ve kicked off a 2020 election season that promises to be fraught in any number of ways.”

Tufecki, a researcher with the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) and faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, became a contributing writer for The Atlantic last fall.   

Read her Feb. 4 column.