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Last Monday, November 29, The Associated Press (AP) published an article titled “Inside the ‘big wave’ of misinformation targeted at Latinos”, in which it determined that in recent years different campaigns had been carried out through Spanish-language media to “misinform” the Latino audience.
The article, written by journalists Amanda Seitz and Will Weissert, and with contributions from Marcos Martínez Chacón, Abril Mulato, and Marcy Gordon, referred to several cases in which, according to them, a misinformation campaign had been carried out. However, El American was able to catch five allegations made by AP in which they presented no evidence or sources, and some of the claims were maliciously created by the writers of the article.
In addition, to “boost” their allegations, the article quotes various members, representatives, or associates of the Democratic Party—which is supposedly being harmed by this misinformation campaign.
Despite having no sources, links, or evidence of the allegations made by The Associated Press, the article was republished in several media outlets, such as NBC News, Yahoo News, Boston.com, Orlando Sentinel, WDRB, CBS, U.S. News, The Washington Post, Buffalo News, among others.
AP’s unsubstantiated allegations about ‘misinformation’
“Before last year’s presidential election, Facebook ads targeting Latino voters described Joe Biden as a communist. During his inauguration, another conspiracy theory spread online and on Spanish-language radio warning that a brooch worn by Lady Gaga signaled Biden was working with shadowy, leftist figures abroad,” the article says in its opening paragraphs.
However, the agency did not provide the accounts that were apparently disseminating the misinformation campaigns, nor did they mention which radio station they claimed raised the conspiracy theory about Lady Gaga and Joe Biden; nor did they provide links, recordings, or screenshots.
A couple of paragraphs below they refer to a case in Virginia prior to the election in which Republican Glenn Youngkin ended up prevailing: “And in the final stretch of Virginia’s election for governor, stories written in Spanish accused Biden of ordering the arrest of a man during a school board meeting”. Nor did they add any source, link, document, or mention of the alleged media outlet that supposedly disseminated this information.
“‘Biden ordenó arrestar a padre de una joven violada por un trans,’ read one of several misleading articles, translating to ‘Biden ordered the arrest of a father whose daughter was raped by a trans,” the journalists misleadingly wrote in the story, again without citing or mentioning the media in question or presenting evidence of the allegations made.
In addition to providing no substantiation for their allegations, the news agency does not clarify at any point whether the alleged information they alert actually comes from an established and reputable media outlet, or simply from anonymous social media accounts with no credibility whatsoever.
After the alleged misinformation campaigns about Biden noted by The Associated Press, they also talked about New Jersey.
“After Democratic incumbent Phil Murphy won New Jersey’s close governor’s race, Spanish-language videos falsely claimed the vote was rigged, despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud—a fact the Republican candidate acknowledged, calling the results ‘legal and fair.'”
According to the agency, videos in Spanish that were spread presented the claim that the elections were rigged, however, in the report, there is no evidence of the audiovisual material pointed out by the media, nor a link that directs to them.
“During the 2020 election, Groisman flagged Facebook ads targeting Latino voters in Texas and Florida that described Biden as a ‘communist.'” reads the article, but El American could not find a link or source within the story that would support the AP’s allegation.
The Associated Press publishes unverified information and contrasts it with biased sources
After pointing out the various cases that, according to the news agency, showed “misinformation” in Spanish, the journalists went on to quote and interview various people to strengthen the argument; however, the sources they quote and/or interview as experts have ties to the Democratic Party.
“Stretched truths accusing some Democrats of being socialists or communists could also dominate the online narrative, said Diego Groisman, a research analyst at New York University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy project,” the article reads.
The news agency presents the interviewee’s words in the context that part of the misinformation consists of calling Democrats socialists or communists, yet it is members of the blue party themselves who have called themselves socialists in the past.
For example, in 2015, as reported by The Washington Post, Vermont Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders labeled himself a socialist.
Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has also called herself a “socialist“, and in fact, she is part of the political organization “Democratic Socialists of America”, along with also representatives for the Democratic Party: Rashida Tlaib, Jamaal Bowman and Cori Bush.
Likewise, members of the organization of which the aforementioned congressmen are part traveled to Venezuela in June of this year, at the invitation of Nicolás Maduro’s regime, as part of a campaign to legitimize the Venezuelan dictatorship.
Precisely Ocasio-Cortez was quoted in the AP article.
“Spanish-language misinformation campaigns are absolutely exploding on social media platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.,” tweeted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after the Nov. 2 election.
One can read in the article, however, the congresswoman’s allegations are also lacking in backing, information, and/or verification.
“Loudoun County was already the epicenter of a heated political debate over how the history of racism is taught in schools — another issue that became fodder for misinformation and political attacks on Spanish-language websites this summer, said Maria Teresa Kumar, president and CEO of Voto Latino, a nonprofit that mobilizes Hispanics to become politically engaged,” says AP.
“It has everything to do with trust in institutions. Trust in government,” said Kumar, whose group works to fight what they call ‘misinformation.’ “Eroding that trust will transfer not just to voting in the midterms, but just overall disengagement from your government,” AP added.
Once again, The Associated Press affirms that there are websites in Spanish that spread misinformation, but they do not mention the alleged platforms, nor do they add links or evidence, they only use the opinion of the biased interviewee, who at the end of the last presidential elections, in which Joe Biden won, published a press release in which she expressed: “This is a victory for all American voters, which after four years of lies, demagoguery and xenophobia of Donald Trump, has been consigned to history”.
This year, for the first time in its history, Voto Latino took the step of endorsing Vice President Biden’s candidacy. Voto Latino also engaged in policy discussions with the Biden campaign on the Biden agenda for Latinx communities. Voto Latino invested $33.7 million in what proved to be the critical battleground states of this election. In Arizona, for example, a state that has suppressed Latinx communities for decades and has not voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1996, Voto Latino registered 67,110 voters and mobilized nearly 400,000 to secure a Biden victory. We replicated this effort in pivotal states including Nevada, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Ultimately, the Latinx vote – volunteers, voters, organizers – were crucial in securing a Biden-Harris win.
The news agency also quoted Evelyn Pérez-Verdía, a political strategist for the Democratic Party and advisor to the Nikki Fried campaign for FL governor, “many online narratives intentionally stoke “fear in the Spanish-speaking communities,” she said.
“They’re not going to stop. They’re going to double down,” Pérez-Verdía said of the misinformation.
The above two paragraphs that can be read in the AP article, once again, use a biased source to deliver information that is not contrasted and without any evidence or proof.
To end with the “report” lacking objective information, contrasted evidence, sources, links and true information, they close the article with the following conclusion: “Others have urged the government to assume a watchdog role. Federal Trade Commission Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, a Democrat, said the regulator could “examine disparities in how big tech companies monitor misinformation in English compared with other languages.”
“The first thing I think we need to do is investigate,” Slaughter said, quoted by the agency.
In this way, The Associated Press, which has also been considered by Big Tech and other media as an information filter that executes fact checking processes, elaborated a biased piece, without evidence, which was republished and spread in the most important newspapers in the United States.
The consequence is the generation of a wave of misinformation that threatens the Latino community and the way it receives information in Spanish. In addition, the article concludes with a statement by a member of the Democratic Party requesting the regulation of information in Spanish, in contrast to the First Amendment of the Constitution.
El American contacted AP reporters for comment on the lack of evidence in the published article but received no response from them.
Emmanuel Rincón is a lawyer, writer, novelist and essayist. He has won several international literary awards. He is Editor-at-large at El American // Emmanuel Rincón es abogado, escritor, novelista y ensayista. Ganador de diversos premios literarios internacionales. Es editor-at-large en El American