Advocacy group Voto Latino and nonprofit media watchdog Media Matters for America have joined together in a $22 million effort designed to fight the spread of disinformation within the Latinx and Hispanic communities.
Launched on Thursday, Feb. 19 by the two nonprofit organizations, the new Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab will aim to “combat mis- and disinformation that further polarizes and isolates Latinx voters.”
The Hill’s Rebecca Beitsch has reported that the partnership will be the “largest investment in combatting disinformation in Latino communities to date” and was partly created in response to the “surge in Spanish and English language misinformation on voter fraud and COVID-19” over the course of the last year.
“The right-wing sphere has spent years building a misinformation machine to target the Latinx community, which has resulted in a rising tide of disinformation,” said Media Matters President Angelo Carusone in a statement following the announcement. “Despite how overwhelming it may seem, it is both possible and absolutely necessary to confront misinformation head on. This partnership will provide an essential check on that rising tide of disinformation.”
“For decades, disinformation has been a weapon that corrupt governments in failing states use against their own people,” added Voto Latino’s Maria Teresa Kumar. “But now that same weapon is aimed at the most vulnerable in the United States, exploiting some officials’ moral weakness and social media’s deliberate lawlessness to sow greater distrust of our critical institutions than ever before. The spread of lies around the COVID vaccine is proof positive that disinformation has become a life and death issue if not curbed and addressed.”
According to Beitsch, the groups said, “a number of social media platforms were used to spread disinformation, disproportionately impacting Spanish-speaking audiences over the age of 40.”
To combat that flood of misinformation, the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab plans to monitor Spanish-language media and online communities, looking for and eliminating falsehoods. The group also plans to “identify and communicate with at-risk voters,” bringing back trust within the community and preventing the spread of lies and political propaganda planted by the right.
Jonathan Allen from NBC News has reported that Media Matters “will assign about a dozen staff members to the project.” They will be tasked with “the monitoring of television, radio and internet forums, including infiltrating closed messaging groups.”
“We’ve got to address this threat head on with a substantial, focused, and concerted effort,” said Tom Perez, the former Democratic National Committee Chairman and one of the co-chairs of the newly formed partnership. “This is the kind of lasting investment in communications infrastructure within the Latino community that is necessary to respond to the threat of misinformation as well as harness durable political and civic power.”