In a “big wave” of false information targeting Latin Americans

Washington (AP)

Prior to last year’s presidential election, Facebook ads targeting Latin voters described Joe Biden as a communist. During his inauguration, another conspiracy theory spread online, and on Spanish radio, Lady Gaga’s brooch was collaborating with Biden’s shadowy leftist figure abroad. I warned that I was informed.

And at the end of the Virginia Governor’s election, a story written in Spanish accused Biden of ordering the arrest of a man during a board meeting.

None of that was true. But such misinformation poses a threat to Democrats who are worried about their position as Latin voters after suffering a sudden defeat in places like the Rio Grande Valley in South Florida and Texas last year. It shows that it is.

Parliamentarians, researchers, and activists are preparing for another false onslaught of Spanish-speaking voters in preparation for a midterm election when parliamentary rule is at stake. And they say there is no social media platform in place that often hosts those misunderstandings.

“There are many concerns that 2022 may be another big wave for many,” said Guymentel, executive director of Global American, a think tank that provides analysis of key issues across the Americas. Says.

This month’s elections may be a preview of what’s to come.

After Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy won the New Jersey governor’s election, a Spanish video falsely claimed that the vote was fraudulent, despite the lack of evidence of widespread fraudulent voting.

In Virginia, where Republican Glenn Youngkin successfully campaigned with a promise to uphold “parental rights” in the classroom, false headlines appeared around a controversial school board meeting.

“Bidenor denóa restara padre de una joven violada por un trans” read one of several misleading articles, translating “Biden ordered the arrest of his father, whose daughter was raped by a trance.”

At a chaotic school board meeting in Loudon County a few months ago, a quarrel spun Mythruth, resulting in the arrest of his father, whose daughter was sexually assaulted in the toilet by another student. rice field. The father claimed that the suspect was “genderfluid” and raised protests against the school’s policy of allowing transgender students to use bathrooms that match their gender identity.

In reality, the White House was not involved in the meeting. The man was arrested by the local sheriff’s office. It is also unknown how the suspect identifies it.

Loudoun County was already the center of intense political debate about how the history of racism is taught in schools. Another issue this summer was the prey to misinformation and political attacks on Spanish websites. A non-profit organization that mobilizes Latin Americans and Hispanics and is politically involved.

“It has to do with trust in the institution. Trust in the government,” said Kumar, a group working to combat false information. “Damaging that credibility will lead to a total withdrawal from the government, not just a medium-term vote.”

Diego Groisman, a research analyst at the Democratic Cybersecurity Project at the University of New York, said extensive truths accusing some Democrats of being socialists or communists could also dominate the online story. Said there is.

During the 2020 election, Groisman flagged Facebook ads targeting Latin voters in Texas and Florida, describing Biden as a “communist.” An ad in Florida, where the majority of the country’s Venezuelan population is concentrated, compared Biden with the country’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.

Laura Edelson, Principal Investigator for the NYU program, said:

Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, a Florida Democratic strategist who monitors Spanish misinformation patterns, says many online stories deliberately caused “fear of the Spanish-speaking community.”

One of the conspiracy theories mentioned on Talk Radio came from Lady Gaga’s golden bird brooch at Biden’s inauguration. Some who spread the claim say that a similar brooch once worn by Claudia Lopez Hernandez, the first openly gay mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, is working with the new president on the foreign left. Said showed.

“They won’t stop. They’ll double it,” Perez Verdia said of the false information.

Critics note that social media companies like Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, remove false information and confirm facts in English more than in other languages ​​like Spanish. Claims to be paying.

Facebook’s own document leaked after a former Facebook employee turned to whistleblower Frances Haugen reflects these concerns. According to Haugen, the company spends 87% of its false information budget on US content. Meta spokeswoman Kevin McCallister said the numbers were “out of context.”

Facebook’s internal memo, written in March, revealed that the company’s ability to detect anti-vaccine rhetoric and false information “basically does not exist” in non-English comments.

For example, last year Instagram and Facebook banned the hashtag “#plandemic” associated with videos full of COVID-19 conspiracy theories. Still, until last month, users used the Spanish version of the hashtag “#plandemia” to disseminate false information on the platform.

Last year’s analysis by Avaaz, a left-handed advocate for tracking false alarms online, also failed to flag 70% of the Spanish false alarms surrounding COVID-19, while English information It was only 29%.

According to McAllister, the company has removed false Spanish claims about fraudulent voting, COVID-19 and vaccines. Four media outlets, including the Associated Press, have also confirmed the falsehood of Spanish over the US content on Instagram and Facebook.

Meanwhile, researchers at the nonpartisan Global Disinformation Index estimate that Google will make $ 12 million this year from ads on websites that market COVID-19 disinformation in Spanish. “We have stopped serving ads on most of the pages shared in the report,” Google spokeswoman Michael Asiman said in an email.

“Spanish false alarm campaigns are absolutely exploding on social media platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp,” said Alexandria Ocasiocortez, a New York Democrat, one of the party’s top progressive voices. I tweeted later.

The explosion is partially fueled by a US-Latin American feedback loop that exacerbates falsehood.

Incorrect information that begins on a US website may be translated by social media pages in Latin American countries such as Colombia and Venezuela. Inaccuracies are shared via YouTube video or messaging apps with Spanish speakers in expatriate communities such as Miami and Houston.

According to a Nielsen report in October, these falsehoods are more likely to reach Latin Americans in the United States because they tend to spend more time on sites such as YouTube, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram.

“I see YouTube accounts and radio stations spitting out false and disinformation about everything they pick up from the surrounding areas of the United States,” Mentel said.

Some are working to fill in the credible information gaps in these communities.

El Timpano, a news service in Oakland, California, delivers local Spanish news text messages to approximately 2,000 subscribers each week. Madeleine Blair, the founder of El Timpano, says subscribers can reply by text message to questions that staff work to answer.

The news service has answered more than 1,500 questions over the past year, including questions about how to treat hoax COVID-19.

“We really got up because it was clear that the communities we serve most needed basic public health information,” Blair said.

Others urged the government to assume the role of watchdog. Democratic Federal Trade Commission member Rebecca Kelly Slaughter said regulators may see differences in how Big Tech monitors disinformation in English compared to other languages.

“The first thing we think we have to do is research,” Slaughter said in a panel with lawmakers in November.


The Associated Press writer Marcos Marcos Martínez Chacón in Monterrey, Mexico, Abril Mulato in Mexico City, and Marcy Gordon in Washington contributed to this report.

In a “big wave” of false information targeting Latin Americans

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