Op-ed: Disinformation is targeting Latinos. Here’s what to do.

Op-ed: Disinformation is targeting Latinos. Here’s what to do.

AP Photo/File

By Maite Guerra, M.P.S

August 31, 2023

As we approach the 2024 election, disinformation becomes increasingly pronounced, whether one is conscious of it or not. Termed as “disinformation,” this phenomenon entails the propagation of false or misleading information, often driven by the pursuit of personal gain. The  dissemination of such deceptive content can arise from both malicious and inadvertent unawareness. 

For instance, consider a scenario where a news article features a video purportedly showing an elected official recklessly speeding in their vehicle. As this video gains viral momentum, it circulates widely. In this case, the creator of the video is generating fabricated information, while those who share it inadvertently contribute to the spread of misinformation. Surprisingly, this example highlights how disinformation is all around us, often escaping notice, and exposes us to content that can influence how we view important issues. 

Due to the spread of disinformation, it is crucial to recognize the term “misinformation” referring to false or inaccurate information that is spread without malicious intent. Often this is due to misunderstanding, errors, or lack of verification. It can lead to misconceptions, potentially influencing public opinion and decision making. Which in turn would significantly impact elections and public discourse. For instance, if there is a scenario where a fake social media account shares a fabricated story claiming that one of the Presidential candidates has a history of financial corruption. Even though that story lacks credible sources and evidence, this misinformation could sway voters who come across the story, potentially altering their perceptions of the candidate’s integrity. Such instances highlight the power of misinformation to shape narratives and outcomes. 

Understanding the role of misinformation and its more sinister counterpart, malinformation, is vital. “Malinformation” involves the dissemination of genuine information, but with a deliberate intent to harm, deceive, or manipulate. This nefarious tactic can have significant repercussions, especially in the realm of politics. 

Consider the context of the upcoming election: a malicious actor strategically leaks authentic but taken-out-of-context emails from a candidate. These emails, when released without the full context, create a false narrative of unethical behavior. This calculated malinformation campaign could tarnish the candidate’s image and sway public opinion against them, showcasing the potent and harmful impact of manipulative information tactics in the political arena. Such issues highlight the importance of critical thinking and dependable sources of information in the democratic process.

In the realm of information warfare, disinformation, misinformation, and malinformation emerge as tools used to manipulate and influence various communities, including the Spanish-speaking population These tactics exploit the language, culture, and vulnerabilities unique to this community, aiming to shape opinions, behaviors, and even political outcomes. Exploring the utilization of these strategies to target the Spanish community provides us with valuable insights into the challenges posed by misinformation in today’s world. 

Currently, GOP-oriented news sources such as Voz and Americano Media are disseminating narratives that propagate disinformation, capitalizing on both disinformation and malinformation tactics. To illustrate, Voz published an article titled ‘Concern in the Democratic Party over Alienation of the Black Community,’ centering on a Reuters/Ipsos poll that suggested 18% of black voters would choose the former president over Biden. 

However, the article omitted the crucial context that this data pertained to a hypothetical scenario. Even within this hypothetical context, the poll revealed that 46% of respondents still favored Biden. This instance underscores the tendency of news outlets to omit information that contradicts their assertions, manipulating public perception by presenting selective truths. 

These tactics find application across a spectrum of news channels, podcasts, and articles. As these practices persist, it becomes imperative for the Latino and Hispanic community in Nevada to exercise vigilance when consuming news, adopting a discerning perspective. Cultivating a healthy skepticism towards information and subsequently conducting thorough research can equip the community with a precise comprehension of the influences at play.

As a first generation Mexican-Guatemalan American, I have personally witnessed the concerted efforts of right-leaning political news, social media content, and articles aiming to appeal to my community. Given the scarcity of Spanish-language resources, distinguishing between genuine and fabricated information becomes challenging. Hence, engaging in critical thinking and discerning what poses a threat is the most effective approach to combat disinformation. 

Another noteworthy observation within the Latino and Hispanic community pertains to the availability of resources that educate individuals on the identification of authentic information. This is an area where Battle Born Progress is actively involved, striving to establish itself as a reliable resource for the Latino and Hispanic community, offering accurate political information as a trustworthy reference.

  • Maite Guerra, M.P.S

    Maite Guerra serves as the Research Manager at Battle Born Progress and the Institute for a Progressive Nevada, where she spearheads research initiatives aimed at countering disinformation targeting the Latino/Hispanic community in Nevada. She holds a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and Criminal Justice from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where she also gained valuable experience as a staffing assistant for Congressman Steven Horford. Maite recently earned her Master's Degree in American Politics with a specialization in American Politics from New York University. During her time at NYU, she contributed her expertise to organizations such as Make the Road, The Progressive Turnout Project, and the Elizabeth Brickfield Campaign. Her commitment to social justice extends beyond her professional endeavors, as evidenced by her volunteer work as a legal intern for the Asian Community Development Council and with the ACLU of Nevada. With a profound passion for the political sphere, Maite endeavors to continue advocating for equitable policies and representation, aspiring to foster positive change in communities nationwide through her research, advocacy, and activism.

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