A recent poll reinforced a recurring theme as we approach the mid-terms of 2022: Latin American voters, who make up the largest ethnic voting bloc in the country, believe the Democratic and Republican parties “take them for granted.” .
What will both parties actually do to win the Latin vote?
The poll, carried out by Axios and Ipsos in partnership with Telemundo, also raised an urgent question: what will the two parties actually do to win the Latin vote?
The answer to this question is deeply complicated by the fight against online disinformation targeting voters, especially Spanish speakers. With figures from the Pew Research Center showing that Latin Americans use YouTube Instagram and WhatsApp more than any other racial or ethnic demographic, it’s no surprise that influencing these voters online is part of a political strategy.
Companies like Meta (formerly Facebook) have failed to deal with the threat of disinformation in previous election cycles. If the 2021 elections in Virginia and New Jersey are any indication, the disinformation machine shows no signs of slowing down, with false claims ranging from President Joe Biden ordering the arrest of relatives in Virginia to videos in Spanish telling the results in New Jersey. Jersey were rigged.
âMisinformation poses a threat to Hispanics, who are particularly vulnerable due to increased reliance on social media and messaging platforms,â a September Nielsen study said.
In addition, according to the Nielsen study, “much of the content, both user-generated and shared, is in Spanish, Spanish or fluent Spanish, which challenges conventional verification procedures. facts and content moderation “.
It’s encouraging to see initiatives like former Univision White House correspondent Janet RodrÃguez joining WhatsApp as head of internal communications to tackle disinformation in Spanish. RodrÃguez, an Emmy-winning journalist, understands how the media is consumed by the Spanish speaking population of the country.
A $ 22 million Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab announced in February by liberal groups Voto Latino and Media Matters seeks to tackle similar disinformation issues. Voto Latino founding president Maria Teresa Kumar, who is also an MSNBC collaborator, said the organization “tries to create role models that identify people who may be more prone to political misinformation in an effort to intervene “. The laboratory is still awaiting launch.
But much more needs to change, and soon. We already know that the disinformation playbook has been an effective tool in influencing Latin American voters, especially when it comes to voters who might be Democrats but voting Republicans.
Unless we see some action, the same playbook will repeat itself, likely with some dangerous updates.
Covid-19 misinformation issues aside – a 2020 report said Facebook had yet to report 70% of the fake coronavirus-related messages in Spanish that have been scanned – there are already indications that it could be too late to remedy the problem. A high-profile WhatsApp fact-checking program in Spanish and English launched by the Poynter Institute in the 2020 presidential election is on hold. Meanwhile, as The New York Times reported in late 2020, “outright disinformation – the deliberate spreading of lies – comes almost exclusively from conservatives, researchers say, including a host of right-wing websites. in Spanish designed to sound like non-partisan news outlets.
These outlets, and the radio programs that amplify them in major Spanish-speaking markets like Miami, have not disappeared. In fact, they are doubling; Vice President Kamala Harris’ recent criticisms of Spanish-language radio stations suggest a coordinated effort.
A 2020 autopsy of Latinos Americans based on multiple data points and focus groups confirmed what so many Latin American policy watchers already knew about Republicans: The disinformation push from “socialism” has created “a space for defection âwhich wasâ focused on people receiving media from WhatsApp and right-wing media, as well as those who believe the most in social mobility through hard work (aka the American Dream).
Unless we see some action, the same playbook will repeat itself, likely with some dangerous updates. The election of 35-year-old leftist Gabriel Boric to Chile earlier this month has already left conservatives in Latinos and Latinos hoping the South American country does not turn into “Chilezuela”, a reference to the current left-wing government from Venezuela. Surely we’ll start to see terms like âChilezuelaâ popping up in WhatsApp messages, letting people know that is what Biden’s America will become if Congress remains Democratic in 2022. It will be difficult to determine who is. directly behind such tactics, but it’s just saying that they will continue unchecked.
So far, there has been a lot of talk about the intention to tackle disinformation. But that has been and will continue to be limited as long as Latin Americans continue to be ignored. That could change, but it will take more intent outside of simple fact-checking, greater investment, and a unified belief that disinformation is a real threat to democracy.
Unless that happens, the same cycles will keep repeating.