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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com


Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Right-wing immigration misinformation crosses over to Spanish amid border bill debate

Most of the Spanish-language misinformation about immigration that Latinos see on social media or listen to on the radio seems to largely mirror the falsehoods spread by right-wing media outlets in English, according to two groups tracking misinformation in Spanish. Researchers monitoring Spanish-language misinformation found that anti-immigrant rhetoric and false narratives increased as coverage of the Senate’s border security and foreign aid bill gained traction in recent weeks. Misinformation and falsehoods continued to cross over into Spanish even after the border security provisions that would have funded federal immigration agencies to ramp up detention and deportation efforts were removed from the bipartisan legislation, leaving behind just the provisions concerning aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. During the weeks in which the bill was being debated, researchers noticed a surge in posts spreading anti-immigrant narratives such as the “great replacement” theory, which posits that Democrats encourage immigration as part of a conspiracy to wipe out the white race, according to Randy Abreu, policy counsel at the National Hispanic Media Coalition, a Latino media advocacy nonprofit. In general, misinformation broadly distorts facts to present false or inaccurate information. “We may only be looking at a tip of an iceberg ... This is concerning,” he told NBC News. At the nonprofit, Abreu leads the Spanish Language Disinformation Coalition, which is made up of at least six organizations that do general monitoring of misinformation in Spanish. Sergio Muñoz, vice president of research and policy at Media Matters, a left-leaning nonprofit media watchdog founded by political consultant David Brock, also leads a team of researchers who follow the opposing immigration narratives in both English and Spanish. Muñoz told NBC News that the group’s overall assessment was that Spanish-language misinformation on immigration was “largely an echo of what we were seeing on the English-language side,” especially when it came to “reactions to the border bill and the subsequent collapse of it.” In two recent reports, Media Matters detailed some of the English-language misinformation being spread by Fox News and other conservative media outlets and personalities around the border security and foreign aid bill. These include false claims made by former President Donald Trump and his allies, even before the bill’s text was published, suggesting that the legislation would allow 5,000 migrants to illegally cross the southern border every day, as well as other false statements from lawmakers and conservative media personalities saying the bill would have codified “invasion” and “mass amnesty.” The bill did not include a provision stating it would legalize any undocumented people in the country or authorize the entrance for large numbers of migrants. Fox News did not respond to a request for comment. Based on their monitoring efforts, Abreu said they saw very few Spanish-language posts on social media specifically focused on spreading these falsehoods about the border bill. Regardless of whether the comments are being widely viewed or not, they provide a glimpse into how this rhetoric may be resonating with some Spanish-speaking Latinos online, Abreu said. Abreu said his organization mainly came across posts spreading anti-immigrant falsehoods, such as the “great replacement” theory, on social media platforms such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitter. The posts contained a “significant amount of comments” in Spanish that directly referenced misinformation that had emerged in English, particularly on the topic of allowing 5,000 illegal migrant crossings daily, he said. A TikTok spokesperson told NBC News that the platform uses “automated technology, user reports, proactive searches and trend reports from experts” to detect misinformation across different languages, but “will continue to deepen our work with experts in Spanish-language misinformation this year.” The company also said it partners with several fact-checking organizations such as Lead Stories that cover Spanish-language misinformation. According to YouTube, its “community guidelines apply to all content in the platform in any language, including Spanish.” The guidelines include policies on “hate and harassment, harmful or dangerous acts, or promoting human smuggling services.” Additionally, the company said their systems “prominently feature content from authoritative sources,” including Spanish-language news outlets like Telemundo and Univision in their recommendations and search results. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment. Recommended U.S. NEWS Two men charged with murder in Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade shooting LATINO Latino members of Congress seek changes in translations of immigration documents Anti-immigrant rhetoric has also resonated with users in social media platforms owned by Meta, such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. According to a Media Matters report released last week, the company earned at least $397,500 from 450 anti-immigration ads that ran on its platforms between October and February. The ads included terms such as “invade,” “invaded,” “invaders,” “invasion,” or “invading” to describe U.S. immigration, and garnered at least 15.5 million impressions combined. An overwhelming majority of the ads came from conservative groups, the report said. Meta said the ads analyzed in the Media Matters report do not violate their community and advertising standards. The company also said it partners with nearly 100 independent fact-checking organizations worldwide who review and rate viral misinformation in more than 60 languages, including English and Spanish. Media Matters also provided NBC News with additional examples of how false narratives about the defunct border bill were also being spread by two Spanish-language radio shows in South Florida. Researchers at Media Matters found that some conservative pundits on these shows echoed false claims that the border bill would lead to mass migrant crossings and falsely suggested that President Joe Biden can fix issues at the border on his own — rendering the bill unnecessary and suggesting that Biden is only looking to act now on the issue because of the upcoming election. “This is factually incorrect,” Muñoz said. “This was a talking point that was crossing easily over from English language to Spanish language.” The advocacy nonprofit American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association, a voluntary organization, released policy brief analyses in English debunking what the bill was and was not in an effort to counter some of this immigration misinformation. Greg Chen, director of government relations at AILA, told NBC News during a call with reporters last week that even Biden contributed to the misinformation when he responded to criticism from House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., suggesting the bill would have given him “new emergency authority to shut down the border.” According to AILA’s analysis, that’s not true. The bill would have provided the Biden administration with the ability “to rapidly expel asylum-seekers,” resulting in “people being denied access to asylum,” Chen clarified. “The lack of accurate information about the issue means that the debate is no longer one about policy and facts,” he added. Who’s monitoring for misinformation? Considering that content moderation efforts are “much less rigorous on Spanish language than they are in English language” across multiple platforms, Muñoz said he anticipates “a proliferation and concentration of misinformation that could be avoided by just simply bringing up to parity Spanish-language moderation with English-language moderation.” Meta did not tell NBC News how many content moderators the company has, but a 2023 company report of their operation in the European Union said that as of September they had at least 163 Spanish-language moderators and 109 English-language content moderators. In their report, the company said they had “additional content reviewers” in other regions for both languages but did not specify how many. Meta did tell NBC News that it plans to launch fact-checking tip lines in Spanish on WhatsApp, expanding their capacity to address misinformation in the Spanish-language communities that use the platform. In similar company reports about their European Union operations, X said that as of October it had just 20 content moderators with linguistic expertise in Spanish, compared to 2,294 content moderators with linguistic expertise in English. TikTok had 468 Spanish-language content moderators and 2,137 English-language content moderators as of September. YouTube reported having 507 people moderating content in Spanish versus 15,142 people moderating content in English, also as of September. No company provided information to NBC News about how many content moderators they have in the U.S. “Without a doubt, it is a threat,” Abreu said. “The reason this is concerning still today is because very little has been done in terms of content moderation, in terms of live fact-checking,” especially in Spanish. For more information, visit us at https://www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com/.

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