Disinformation Campaigns Are Targeting Latinx Voters

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 20, 2020

About 2.5 million Latinx Floridians are registered to vote in the 2020 presidential election—making up 17 percent of the state’s total, according to a Pew Research Center study published yesterday (October 19)—and reports from various news outlets, such as ABC and NBC, have confirmed that they are being heavily targeted with right-wing disinformation campaigns and conspiracy theories. 

To combat the falsehoods, Democrats, such as Representatives Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla.) and Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), have been speaking out. In September, they sent a joint letter to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) requesting an immediate investigation into the disinformation campaign. In the letter, the Reps wrote: 

As we rapidly approach election day, Latin[x] circles in South Florida have witnessed a surge in posts containing false or misleading information on social media…While disinformation on social media is, itself, problematic, even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida. As the FBI works to secure our elections, we urge you to keep the Latino community in mind and consider efforts of foreign actors to spread disinformation and sow doubt in our election systems among Latinos, especially in South Florida.

Julián Castro, the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, spoke with NPR on October 18 about why he’s worried. Castro told host Lulu Garcia-Navarro that in addition to Facebook, he’s also concerned about Twitter and YouTube. “It does seem like some of these efforts are specifically targeted at the Latin[x] community,” Castro said. “I think people are a little bit more sophisticated about it this time because of the experience of four years ago, but I still notice this information being shared. It still seems like it has tremendous potential to mislead folks.”

According to a September article from Politico, WhatsApp and Facebook are reportedly being used to spread the message of QAnon—a conspiracy theory movement that believes Democrats are running a child-sex operation and that Donald Trump will end it—throughout Florida’s Latinx community. “It’s not right-wing. I don’t have a problem with right-wing stuff. It’s QAnon stuff,” said Roberto Tejera, who hosts a show on Actualidad Radio, to Politico. “This is conspiracy theory. This goes beyond. This is new. This is a new phenomenon in Spanish speaking radio.”

Rep. Mucarsel-Powell told ABC News that her biggest fear is disinformation being used as a way to suppress votes. And advocacy organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens and Mi Familia Vota have been pressuring social media companies to delete disinformation. In August, Voto Latino, which Julián Castro advises, and four other organizations sued the Trump Administration for spreading disinformation around mail-in voting.