US Senator Catherine Cortez Masto joins her colleagues in urging WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal to stop the spread of fake news/disinformation in Spanish on their group messaging apps
A study revealed that 66% of respondents whose main language is Spanish received misinformation/misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine via messaging apps like Signal, Telegram and WhatsApp.
May 18, 2022 – Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (DN.J.), Ben Ray Luján (DN.M.) and 20 other colleagues in the sending of bicameral letters to the heads of WhatsApp, Telegramand Signal to express serious concerns about the rise of misinformation/misinformation in Spanish targeting Latin American communities on these group messaging apps. In their letter, the lawmakers urge these companies to outline what steps, if any, they are taking to prevent or combat the spread of misinformation/disinformation in Spanish.
“The spread of misinformation in Spanish is a threat to our communities, and tech companies must do more to combat it without compromising our privacy,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “I will continue to work to hold tech companies accountable and ensure that we protect the Latino community from misinformation and work to build trust in public health and our democratic institutions.”
Lawmakers have made it clear that group messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal can combat the spread of mis/disinformation in Spanish without compromising user privacy or the integrity of private encrypted communications “by increasing the access to reliable fact-checking in all languages, hiring and investing adequately in staff who have the necessary cultural background, and implementing other tools to slow the spread of viral mis/disinformation. also emphasized that “the dissemination of content that promotes mis/disinformation, undermines public health efforts, and instills distrust in our democratic institutions must become a top priority…”
Lawmakers have expressed concerns about how attractive group messaging platforms like Telegram are to bad actors looking to quickly spread mis/disinformation to a mass audience as they allow up to 200,000 people in a group with limited supervision. They also highlighted how it is estimated that by 2023, almost 71% of the Latin American population of the United States WhatsApp users will be and how young Latinos, in particular, are twice as likely to use platforms like WhatsApp compared to the general population. This leaves young Latinos exposed to an even higher rate of misinformation than the general population.
The first and only Latina in the U.S. Senate, Senator Cortez Masto has pledged to fight misinformation. Last year she pushed Technology CEO to act on the rampant spread of misinformation in Spanish and other non-English languages on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Nextdoor. Her too urged the Biden administration to fight health misinformation and ensure accurate vaccine information reaches Latino communities across the country. Moreover, the senator called online platforms like Facebook and Twitter to take additional steps to stop the spread of voter-related and bipartisan-directed misinformation legislation to fund research into detecting “deepfakes”, online videos that realistically impersonate a person’s identity.