Rep. Castro and Latino groups warn against misinformation targeting Spanish speakers
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U.S. Representative Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, has joined a coalition of Latin American organizations in their calls for social media platforms to do more to combat dangerous conspiracies and election disinformation targeting Spanish-speaking communities. .
The group, called the Spanish Language Disinformation Coalition, says Spanish speakers are particularly vulnerable due to their heavy use of platforms such as YouTube and WhatsApp, where disinformation about the vote has spread ahead of the midterm elections. of 2022. They cite a steady stream of conspiracy and extremist rhetoric that has already sparked violence in Texas and elsewhere.
“We are being lied to and discouraged from exercising our right to vote on a large scale,” said Brenda Victoria Castillo, president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “And people like Mark Zuckerberg do very little while they enjoy it.”
Meta, the parent company of Facebook and WhatsApp, and Alphabet, the parent company of Google and YouTube, could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.
Research shows that social media platforms have been inundated with misinformation for years – including in the run-up to the 2020 election and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when racist, anti-vaccine and anti-vaccine conspiracies electoral fraud have multiplied. Earlier this week, watchdog group Media Matters for America found that many Spanish-language videos containing false information continue to stream on YouTube, despite the platform’s promises to improve pre-midstream monitoring.
The researchers say the misinformation has been targeted and particularly salient among Latin American communities.
“Latinos are affected by a different environment of disinformation than that reaching the American population as a whole, and are often targeted in ways specific to their national origins,” University of Houston researchers wrote earlier this year. “For example, many of their sources expressed concerns about socialism (often using the term ‘government handouts’), encouraged racial resentment pitting African Americans against Latinos, or exploited distrust of authority. in the Latin American community.”
The flow of falsehoods has been so constant that a Spanish fact-checking website, Factchequeado, was launched earlier this year to combat misinformation targeting Hispanic and Latino communities in the United States. The website’s editor, Tamoa Calzadilla, said on Thursday there had been a significant increase. in “propaganda” in recent months, including conspiracies about the Internal Revenue Service and comparisons of President Joe Biden to communist dictators in Latin America.
“You can see photos, pictures, videos, propaganda and TV ads saying they’re the same people – that they’re all communists, socialists, dictators,” she said.
Meanwhile, racist and violent rhetoric about Latino communities also flourished and helped spark acts of mass violence, including the killing of 23 people at an El Paso Walmart by a gunman who been radicalized in part by online conspiracy theories.
Following the Uvalde school shooting earlier this year, conspiracies about the shooter’s nationality and gender identity have also surfaced online.
“I was disappointed to see [social media platforms] tolerate lies in Spanish that would never be tolerated in English,” said Castro, who joined the coalition during a press call on Thursday. He also noted the rhetoric used by the Trump campaign in thousands of online ads, including those that claimed there had been an “invasion” on the southern border.
Castro also noted what he said was a wave of misinformation about alleged voter fraud, including the debunked “2000 Mules” movie that top Republicans in Texas have promoted in recent months.
The coalition’s calls come as Texas lawmakers continue to oppose moderation on social media platforms. Last year, the state legislature passed a law prohibiting big tech companies from removing users for “viewpoint.” The law, which is currently being challenged in court, also requires platforms to make public the content or accounts they remove.
The law was part of a broader backlash by conservatives against big tech companies over perceived bias – claims that have been heightened by Twitter’s decision to ban former President Donald Trump and 70,000 accounts that have contributed to spreading dangerous false information before the deadly insurgency on January 6, 2021. at the United States Capitol.
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This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/10/13/spanish-latino-misinformation-2022-elections/.
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