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Hispanics Are a Growing Target for Misinformation Ahead of Elections

More than 20 percent of Hispanic adults in the U.S. rely on social media for news consumption, where discerning between fact and fiction, especially in Spanish, will be crucial ahead of this year’s elections.

people checking in to a voting station
(Elías Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
With the 2024 U.S. Presidential election several months away, community groups, public officials and researchers predict an upsurge in the dissemination of false information across social media platforms - highlighting the need for enhanced fact-checking measures, particularly in Spanish media.

According to the Pew Research Center, 21 percent of U.S. Hispanic adults rely on social media for news consumption. Distinguishing between misinformation and disinformation is crucial in understanding the complexities surrounding this issue. Misinformation is sharing fake or misleading information without knowing it, while disinformation is sharing fake or misleading information on purpose.

Randy Abreu, Policy Director of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a non-profit organization advocating for Latino representation and fair portrayals in media, highlighted a viral false claim during the COVID-19 pandemic suggesting that the COVID-19 vaccine contained government tracking microchips. This instance highlights the surge in misinformation during the pandemic, extending beyond health-related topics to encompass broader issues like immigration, climate change, and abortion.

“Another reason this is so important right now is because there are so many elections happening (in 2024), not just in the United States, but also in Latin America, so we are monitoring and anticipating a high influx of Spanish language disinformation,” said Abreu.

Media Matters found Spanish-speakers on TikTok are being targeted by conspiracy theories about climate change. A lot of these misinformation narratives are originating in Spain and other countries besides the U.S. and are reaching our communities, said Abreu.

The way these actors are reaching these communities is through what would look like a reputable media source like Voz Media, Americano Media, and El Diario Derecho, but after further examination these websites are often filled with fringe conspiracy theories, said Abreu.

Misinformation in Texas


Texas state Rep. Rafael Anchía recounted personal experiences of disinformation targeting him and his wife, Rebecca Acuña, during her tenure as the Texas State Director for the Biden-Harris presidential campaign.

Anchía shared an incident where a false post on ‘X’ from a ‘pink slime’ website falsely claimed their ties to the Chinese government.

Websites that pose as reputable news organizations but spread mis and disinformation are known as ‘pink slime’.

“Fuentes de información partidista, or methods for the translations of partisan methods,” Anchía said when describing ‘pink slime’ websites.

Although Anchía disregarded the misinformation due to its limited exposure, he acknowledged the potential harm if it gained traction among a wider audience.

“It’s difficult for the average consumer of that information to discern the motives behind the message,” said Anchía.

“I fear that leading up to the 2024 presidential election we are going to see more, and I say that because artificial intelligence tools have made it cheaper and easier to spread fake information, this includes deep fakes” said Anchía.

Texas became the first state in 2019 to outlaw deep fakes.

Enforcing the law has presented a new challenge, said Anchía.

It’s difficult to find the ultimate source of the deep fake video or audio.

“We have taken some affirmative steps. We need a federal law that regulates artificial intelligence technology,” said Anchía. “The Secretary of State’s Office and county elections officials should be the final authority of what is real and what is not. They should be the impartial arbiters that give us correct information, but even they are under attack. It’s a pretty scary time.”

Combating Misinformation


Dallas County is home to 1.1 million Spanish-language natives, or 40 percent of the population according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. Spanish-language natives speak Spanish at home or live in a household where Spanish is the dominant spoken language.

Much of Spanish misinformation stems from translating English language news to Spanish. Information can become lost in translation unintentionally, said Laura Zommer, Co-founder of Factchequeado.

Factchequeado is an initiative that was created to counter mis and disinformation in Spanish language media. They foster collaboration among fact-checkers, journalists and the audience in order to create a conversation and focus on underserved communities.

Factchequeado partners with media across the world to help identify misinformation and provide quality content for free. According to the organization, having media allies around the works helps them understand different communities’ needs and determine which issues to monitor.

“In lots of cases Spanish speaking media in the U.S. are low income newsrooms with very few staff members,” said Zommer.

In order to assist underfunded newsrooms, Factchequado provides free training and tools to fact check claims.

One of these tools is Chequebot, an Artificial Intelligence tool that automatically identifies claims in the media and matches them with existing fact checks.

“Now, it is not enough to write a good piece of text because many people are working all day and are never going to read a 7 minute article with all the explanations, they want news in the places where they are. Those places are Whatsapp, Youtube and other social networks.” Zommer said. If we are not able to produce news in Spanish, in a way that can be engaging then people are obviously going to spread more misinformation.”

“We will not end disinformation but we should find better ways to help people be more aware and prepared,” said Zommer.

The Stanford History Education Group developed three questions individuals should always ask when coming across unfamiliar online content: Who’s behind the information? What’s the evidence? What do other sources say?

By asking these questions, individuals can become better informed about news they come in contact with online. These questions are a part of a larger curriculum known as Civic Online Reasoning that fosters educated citizens that can responsibly participate in a democracy.

“It’s (misinformation is) harming democracy at the end of the day,” said Abreu.


©2024 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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