Ushahidi, a crisis tracking startup based in Nairobi, launched in 2008 after Kenya's disputed presidential elections descended into violence. Since then, the nonprofit has used crowdsourced reports to track and map sexual harassment in Egypt, earthquake relief efforts in Haiti, and the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East. Now, Ushahidi has begun tracking reports of post-election violence in the US, where the election of Donald Trump has incited a wave of racist harassment. And the outlook is pretty bleak.
On Monday, Ushahidi announced that it has mapped more than 300 incidents of "violence, hate speech, and harassment" across the US over the past ten days, including 148 reports of hate speech or threats. The organization receives reports through text messages, Twitter, and email, and works to confirm them with help from researchers at MIT and Harvard, as well as the writer and activist Shaun King. Its tracking software is open sourced, with every instance displayed on a detailed map.
Ushahidi had at first planned to track voter suppression efforts on Election Day, but it shifted its focus to hate crimes and threats in the wake of Trump's victory. Other organizations, including ProPublica and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), have launched similar efforts. On Monday, the SPLC said it has collected around 700 reports of "hateful incidents" since Election Day, noting that anti-immigrant harassment was the most commonly reported incident, and that nearly 40 percent of all reports occurred in schools or universities. In its blog post, the SPLC noted that there has been a drop-off in reporting as of late, with some 65 percent of all incidents occurring in the three days after the election, but the overall surge in violence and hate is nevertheless terrifying.
It's not exclusive to the US, either; hate crime surged in the UK following this year's Brexit vote in July, and remained high through September. And with far-right, anti-immigrant sentiment on the rise in France, Germany, and the Netherlands — which all hold elections next year — efforts to shed light on the world's darkest corners may be more important than ever.