A new $22 million “Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab” is being launched by Voto Latino and Media Matters for America, a Thursday media release announced.
News of the initiative was first reported on Wednesday by NBC News.
The Thursday release noted that the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab will be chaired by Voto Latino co-founding President and CEO María Teresa Kumar, Media Matters for America President and CEO Angelo Carusone and former Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez.
“The need for this initiative is clear,” the release noted. “In the months leading up to the 2020 general election, voters were subject to higher levels of mis- and disinformation than ever before. Spanish and English language voter fraud misinformation, fear-mongering tactics, and disinformation about COVID-19 spread throughout the media and on mainstream social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube, and other online communities. This included a significant increase in false information targeting communities of color, disproportionately impacting Spanish-speaking audiences over the age of 40.”
The Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab is believed to be the largest investment ever to target disinformation in the Latino community as a means of voter outreach. A significant part of the lab will focus on the monitoring of Spanish-language media and online communities. According to the release, research produced by the media analysis will be used for more strategic efforts by Voto Latino to identify and communicate with at-risk Latino voters.
“For decades, disinformation has been a weapon that corrupt governments in failing states use against their own people,” Kumar said in the release. “But now that same weapon is aimed at the most vulnerable in the United States, exploiting some officials’ moral weakness and social media’s deliberate lawlessness to sow greater distrust of our critical institutions than ever before. The spread of lies around the COVID vaccine is proof positive that disinformation has become a life and death issue if not curbed and addressed.”
“The right-wing sphere has spent years building a misinformation machine to target the Latinx community, which has resulted in a rising tide of disinformation. Despite how overwhelming it may seem, it is both possible and absolutely necessary to confront misinformation head on. This partnership will provide an essential check on that rising tide of disinformation,” Carusone said.
Perez, the former DNC chair, is expected to lend his voice and support to the effort, the release said.
“This is the kind of lasting investment in communications infrastructure within the Latino community that is necessary to respond to the threat of misinformation as well as harness durable political and civic power,” Perez said.