Lack of Information In Spanish Seen as Detrimental to Latino Voters In US Elections

Many Latinos in the United States do not feel comfortable using English but struggle to find trustworthy information in Spanish, according to research

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July 21, 2023 | 07:10 PM

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Bloomberg Línea — Although second- and third-generation Latinos increasingly in the United States prefer to read and communicate in English, large segments of those communities could be disadvantaged during the 2024 presidential election due to a lack of adequate information in Spanish.

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One of the main reasons behind this situation is the scarcity of quality journalism in their own language, given that there are not enough Spanish-language media outlets, with the danger that the information vacuum allows false content to be disseminated for political purposes.

One of the most recent cases was what happened at the southern border of the United States when thousands of migrants were waiting for the lifting of Title 42. At that time, false and biased information began to reach them through social networks from people seeking to obtain money in exchange for an appointment with the immigration office.

According to Pew Research Center, Hispanics (46%) are much more likely to say they use WhatsApp than Blacks (23%) or whites (16%) in the US, and Hispanics are 57% more likely to use social media as a primary source of information, according to a 2021 Nielsen report.

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“Latino communities are the largest minority in the United States, and Spanish is the second most-spoken language in the country after English. Despite this, the treatment Spanish receives from public and private institutions and the media does not always correspond to its importance,” El Tiempo Latino reports.

Spanish is the most widely spoken language in the United States after English, with more than 41 million people who speak it regularly at home, according to the US Census Bureau.

The tactics of disinformation

Disinformation targeting Latino communities is tailored to different characteristics, such as language, the social networks they use, the way they communicate online and the issues they care about. This is possible given that there is currently a scarcity of media outlets that perform fact-checking in Spanish or that specifically target Latino communities.

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The lack of information and the prevailing misinformation affect different topics and issues specific to Latino communities. According to research conducted by Factchequeado, issues related to migration processes are of particular concern, followed by Covid-19 and LGTBIQ+ rights and politics.

At the other extreme is climate change. It appears last, so it is the theme in which the least lack of information and presence of misinformation is perceived.

Many Latinos and Latinas are not comfortable when they have to use English and do not find the reliable information they need in Spanish. In addition, instant messaging applications are an entry point for misinformation in Spanish from their home countries, something that the rest of Americans do not experience.

It is important to note that misinformation can have a significant impact on presidential elections. Some experts predict that misinformation related to migration flows and immigrant voting rights will be amplified in the context of the 2024 elections in both the United States and Mexico.