By Manny Otiko, IVN
Members of the Black, Asian and Latino communities are often the targets of misinformation and disinformation around election time, according to experts who spoke at a recent seminar put on by Ethnic Media Services.
Disinformation is deliberately false stories created to sew confusion. Misinformation is news stories and ideas that are misunderstood. For example, in August, New York Attorney General Letitia James shut down a robocall operation, organized by Republican operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, that sent out threatening calls to Black voters in 2020.
These stories often ramp up around election time, and the midterm elections are less than a month away.
Mekela Panditharatne, counsel for Brennan Center’s Democracy Program, said one frequent tactic is giving out incorrect election day information, so people get tricked out of voting.
The coronavirus pandemic and the changes in voting laws have led to specific disinformation. Panditharatne said that during the pandemic, the government expanded rules about mail-in ballots, as many citizens didn’t want to risk getting infected at the voting booth. Unfortunately, this has led to waves of misinformation about this topic.
“There is a deluge of misinformation about mail-in voting,” she said. To add to the confusion about voting, Panditharatne said 21 states have added 47 restrictive voting laws. Republicans claim they implemented these laws to crack down on voter fraud, but the real reason is to make it more difficult for Black and brown people to vote.
Some of these laws include strict voter ID regulations and restrictions on mail-in voting.
According to Panditharatne, a new law in Texas has implemented strict rules about mail-in ballots. The new law resulted in a 100% increase in ballots being rejected, she said.
She added that the best way to confirm information is to refer to your local election board.
However, some organizations are fighting back by dispelling false information being broadcast to the media. One of them is Factchequeado, a Spanish-language fact-checking website.
Managing Editor Tamoa Calzadilla said the organization was created because misinformation and disinformation is a big problem in Spanish-language media.
Calzadilla said she has noticed a big jump in false stories after the last election. For example, a frequently spread false story in Spanish-language media was that Dominion Voting Systems deleted 2.7 million votes. This has been debunked, and Dominion Voting Systems is currently suing several right-wing outlets, such as FOX News, Newsmax, and One American News, for spreading these lies.
According to Calzadilla, another false story currently being spread in Spanish-language media is that the IRS is stocking up on ammunition.
Calzadilla said many stories incorrectly label migrants. For example, the migrants who were recently tricked into going to Martha’s Vineyard have been labeled “illegals.” This is incorrect because they have temporary refugee status and are legally in the country.
According to Rong Xiaoqing, a reporter for the Chinese-language paper Sing Tao Daily, disinformation is also a problem in Asian media. She found that WeChat, a Chinese language messaging app, is a frequent source of disinformation. These false stories are being deliberately planted in the American media.
“It’s pushed by the Chinese government,” she said.
One false story she has seen on social media is that the US government is forcing children into having gender reassignment surgery. Other false stories claim the Democrats are tied to the Chinese Communist Party and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is a Chinese agent. (Many of these same conspiracy theories are also spread on right-wing media.)
Rong said these false stories place dangerous ideas into people’s minds, and can lead people to take action. This has already happened in the United States. The Jan. 6 Capitol attack was motivated by the false idea that the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump. However, the Trump campaign failed to provide evidence of this in court and lost more than 60 election fraud cases.
Inland Valley News coverage of local news in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.