The phrase “fake news” came to prominence during the 2016 presidential elections when Donald Trump used it to describe his opposition’s criticisms. But the phrase isn’t just a talking point.
During the run-up to the 2016 election and after it, platforms like Facebook, Youtube, and even TikTok were being bombarded with political posts that either stretched the truth disingenuously or threw it out altogether.
Most of these posts are now taken down quickly before they have the chance to spread their misinformation to a wide audience. But now, “fake news” is expanding into other languages. And major tech platforms are struggling to keep up.
Platforms like Facebook (now Meta), Youtube, and Twitter have robust policies in place for dealing with fake news posts in English. But when that content is translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Filipino, and other languages, these platforms are starting to realize that they can’t keep up.
Spreaders of misinformation are beginning to target immigrant communities in the United States. They’re doing so with politically-motivated fake news campaigns that involve dishonest translations, manipulated images, and outright lies.
Some of these posts start out on fringe American social media platforms like Truth Social and Gab. Then perpetrators will grab those misleading statements, translate them into another language, and present them as facts in major foreign-language news outlets.
The problem is that some members of immigration communities don’t get their news from major English-language publications. They might form their political opinion based on the posts they see in their native language on social platforms or major publications from their country.
This creates a situation in which large groups of people may vote based on political beliefs that have been formed by fake news posts.
There are over 20 million immigrant voters in the United States. If large groups of them are misled by inaccurate information, it could have a significant impact on the upcoming November 2022 elections.
The good news is that there are many groups devoted to fighting back against these non-English political misinformation campaigns.
For example, Viet Fact Check gives Vietnamese speakers an easy way to verify the posts that they’ve seen online. Factchequeado is doing the same thing for Spanish speakers.
Groups like these pay close attention to the political posts in their native language that are trending on social media platforms. When they identify misinformation, they explain why the post is inaccurate on their websites.
Will This Be Fixed By the Election?
Although there are groups fighting back against these dishonest posts, many members of their target audience simply aren’t aware of them. This means that fake news stories may still influence meaningful segments of the U.S. immigration population despite the good work that these groups are doing.
Ultimately, it comes down to families, friends, and social networks. Members of these groups will need to take a stand against fake news stories in their language and explain to their people why they are incorrect.
If enough foreign language speakers do this in their communities, non-English misinformation campaigns may have only a minimal impact on the upcoming elections. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens to find out for sure.
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