Latinos, “perfect victims” of misinformation around covid-19

This content was published on September 17, 2021 – 11:00

Ana Mengotti

Miami (USA), Sep 17 (EFE) .- Show why Spanish-speaking Latinos are the “perfect victims” of misinformation around covid-19 and vaccines is the end of “Desinfodemia”, a documentary that targets social media as part of a problem that “kills people,” according to US President Joe Biden.

The journalist Paola Ramos, who hosts “Desinfodemia”, a production of the digital medium VICE News with versions in Spanish and English and now available on YouTube, told Efe that the general problem of misinformation about the pandemic is more serious in the case of Spanish speakers in the US, who have also been disproportionately affected by covid-19.

Ramos says that the networks, by a law of 1996, the so-called Section 230, are not responsible for what their users publish on them, they do not monitor both the contents in Spanish and those that are in English.

This means that disinformation in Spanish can go much longer without warnings appearing or being withdrawn and thus, the misleading video or message spreads more and potentially does more damage, points out this journalist who worked in the White House during the Barack Obama presidency.

LACK OF CAPACITY OR NEGLIGENCE

“Either they don’t have the capacity to monitor messages in Spanish or the negligence is total,” adds Ramos, daughter of well-known journalist Jorge Ramos and author of books such as “Latinx” (2020).

Ramos mentions as an example a study carried out by the Avaaz company in 2020, which concluded that only 30% of the content with disinformation in Spanish on Facebook had “labels with warnings”, while 70% of it kind of messages in English had them.

The company downplayed the Avaaz study on the grounds that they used a very small sample, but withdrew 13 of the 16 cases of misinformation that appear in “Desinfodemia,” as noted in the documentary, which includes statements by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and current president of Facebook.

The VICE News journalist emphasizes that Latinos precisely spend more time than any other community on the networks and they basically get information online.

All of this makes them “perfect victims.”

One of the interviewees for the documentary, a Hispanic from California staunchly opposed to vaccines against covid-19, despite the fact that her husband had the disease, confesses in “Desinfodemia” that they spend four hours a day being on the networks.

In the documentary, Ramos visits Hispanic peasant communities in California and talks with some of their members to learn how much anti-vaccine messages have permeated them.

He also interviews Mariano Arriaga, the leader of the Doctors for Truth movement in Argentina, the disinformation specialist Jaime Longoria, from the First Draft News organization, and the Democratic congressman Tony Cárdenas, among others.

SPAIN, ARGENTINA AND EL SALVADOR, SOURCES OF DISINFORMATION

The vast majority of misinformation about covid-19 and the vaccines consumed by Latinos comes from Spain and Latin America, mainly from Argentina and El Salvador.

A Salvadoran anti-vaccine doctor, María Barrientos, some of whose videos appear in the documentary, and Arriaga, whom Ramos confronts before the camera for saying that US states with policies contrary to measures such as confinement is where the incidence of Covid-19 is minor, something that is false, they have a great reputation among US Latinos who speak Spanish.

The fact that they are both doctors weighs heavily among the “victims of misinformation” featured in the documentary. “She is not just anyone, she is a doctor,” says one of the interviewees de Barrientos.

The so-called health promoters, who work for the community in the Hispanic farmworker populations in California, are on the other side: they are people who build trust and who are vital to convince them to protect themselves with the vaccine.

One of them confesses to Ramos that she also had her doubts about the vaccine and there are other interviewees who wonder why the authorities that never dealt with them are so interested in getting them vaccinated.

WHAT’S BEHIND THE DISINFORMATION?

When the journalist is asked what the end of the misinformation is, she points out that there is not just one. Behind there are ideological, cultural and monetary reasons.

In “Desinfodemia” another study is mentioned that claims that misleading content related to covid-19 can generate advertising revenue of 1.1 billion dollars a year to platforms and the figure only includes those that are in English.

It is also said that many of the anti-vaccine “influencers” in their videos and messages refer to Paypal accounts for donations to continue fighting for the cause.

Ramos believes that the solution must come from the US Congress, where there are many bills to combat disinformation but not a single one has been approved.

The specialist Jaime Longoria, who does not believe that it is possible to eradicate misinformation, stresses that it would at least help that the networks had, when monitoring the contents in Spanish, the same zeal as with those that are in English. EFE

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