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Cultivating grassroots digital media to mobilize the vote

Georgia-based grassroots group aims to amass a digital army of young voters

Nick Knudsen got involved in activism after Donald J. Trump was elected in 2016. He started addressing what he calls “rising authoritarianism” by writing commentaries for news platforms like Huffington Post. He wanted to call out attacks on voting rights and support grassroots organizations working on Democratic Party campaigns. And with 12% of Americans getting their news on social media, those platforms are prime real estate for getting messages across.

“A lot of people spend time on social media and ultimately form their views of reality and national politics,” Knudsen says. “So it’s important that we use social media as a platform to raise awareness about voting rights.”

In 2019, Knudsen co-created an organization that does just that. With the tagline “Grassroots media. By the people. For the people,” DemCast USA provides activists with an online platform to share original digital media, such as podcasts, articles, and videos, and supports people in using content strategically to spread their messages. He is particularly excited about recruiting young people to employ their social media savvy to become digital activists.

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While it’s hard to measure DemCast’s direct impact on voter mobilization, individual Georgia legislators have told DemCast that its grassroots outreach was central to their very slim victory in the 2020 election cycle.

Knudsen has seen how social media can be a place for hateful messages, especially during Trump’s presidency, but with a concerted effort, he believes its impact can be a net positive.

“We’re not trying to, and we don’t have the capacity to stop other people from saying all the bad things,” he says. “But we do have the ability, and I think the responsibility, to try and spread the right things.”

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