'Real Catholics can't be Democrats': Right-wing disinformation campaigns are targeting Latinos in Spanish Facebook and WhatsApp groups

  • Largely right-wing campaigns are spreading misinformation regarding democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris online, per a report in MIT Technology Review.
  • Spanish-language Facebook and WhatsApp group users have reported seeing messages like "Biden = Socialism" and that Kamala Harris supports abortions "minutes before birth," both of which are untrue. 
  • Joe Biden's success among Latino voters in swing states greatly impacts his chance of winning the election.
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Latinos — a voting bloc that could decide the 2020 election — are getting hit with false information on Spanish-language Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

Largely right-wing disinformation campaigns, or ads that spread false or exaggerated information, are targeting Hispanic-Americans online, the MIT Technology Review Reported. Users reported seeing repetitive messaging of Kamala Harris supporting abortion "up to minutes before birth," which she has never said according to fact-check site Snopes.

One Facebook group "Cubanos por Donald Trump" posted a photo of democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Miami's Little Haiti Cultural Center claiming he "kneels before foreign leaders," despite not in Haiti or meeting a Haitian leader in the picture, MIT reported.

The publication also reported that two separate Republican ads have spread messages like "Real Catholics can't be Democrats" and "Biden = Socialism" online. 

Gaining Latino voters is crucial for Joe Biden, particularly in three battleground states, Florida, Arizona, and Texas, where they comprise 20%, 24%, and 30% of the voting population, respectively. Last month, polls showed Biden struggling to appeal to Latino voters in Florida, and the Associated Press reported his team acknowledged he may not get the same share of the vote as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. 

At the same time, Facebook and other tech groups are struggling to keep fake information off their sites. DC think tank German Marshall Fund Digital recently found engagement with articles from "deceptive" websites increased a whopping 242% since 2016.

Business Insider's Rob Price reported that CEO Mark Zuckerberg introduced product designs to compete with Twitter for political discussion may have paved the way for right-wing misinformation campaigns that run rampant on the platform.

Business Insider has reached out to Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, for further comment.

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