Of the estimated 62 million Hispanic or Latinx people living in the United States today, about 41 million of them are Spanish speakers, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And as we get closer to Election Day, misinformation campaigns targeting this group are ramping up.
Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams speaks with Brennan Suen, deputy director of external affairs at Media Matters for America, where he researches social media accountability efforts. He and his team recently looked at dozens of YouTube videos that he says are spreading misinformation about elections.
The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.
Brennan Suen: These videos spread false claims about voting machines, including Smartmatic and Dominion voting machines, fraudulent or manipulated ballot narratives, including suggestions that dead people voted, that felons voted, that children voted, and then other general stolen election narratives as well.
Kimberly Adams: YouTube has explicit misinformation policies. Why are these videos specifically slipping past the platform’s moderating algorithm?
Suen: I think it’s clear from our research that YouTube is not dedicating enough resources to Spanish-language enforcement. I think it’s also important to note that YouTube’s election misinformation policies pertaining to U.S. elections specify only past presidential elections, and the platform famously released these policies after the 2020 election had taken place in December.
Adams: What is YouTube’s response been to your report?
Suen: YouTube has suspended a few of the channels in one of our reports. In particularly, we had a report on three very prominent bad actors, and two of those channels were removed. However, most of the videos from our latest report have remained on the platform.
Adams: What specific things can be done to help mitigate the spread of non-English misinformation and disinformation, not just on YouTube but on all the social media platforms?
Suen: One, it’s important to have proactive policies. I think that platforms also need to implement enough resources, including automatic detection, that will search through videos, images and text to identify potentially violative content. And they also need to have a sufficient number of Spanish-speaking moderators so that they can hold English and Spanish content to the same standard. I also think that YouTube and other platforms need to commit to consistently monitoring bad actors that Media Matters and others have also identified. They’re very consistent in the kinds of misinformation they’re spreading. And generally, if they’ve done it once, they’ll do it again. There’s overlap between these YouTube creators and radio hosts who put misinformation on YouTube, on Facebook and also spread it on their radio programs as well.
Related links: More insight from Kimberly Adams
That Media Matters report Brennan Suen referenced goes into more detail about exactly what was in all those videos he referenced.
And here’s a New York Times article that looks at how other multilingual organizations are tackling election misinformation. The article notes that many fact-checkers doing this work have expressed how overwhelming it is and that they just can’t seem to keep up with all the garbage on the various platforms. Like Suen, they are calling on major tech companies to do more non-English content moderation.
We reached out to YouTube for a comment on all this, but there was no response by the time we recorded.
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