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Fake news is becoming a serious problem in social networks. Photo: Internet Matters
Fake news has been a serious problem on social media over the last two election cycles. Graphic: Internet Matters

Senators complain about the mishandling of 'fake news' in Spanish

Several U.S. senators have expressed concern that social media platforms are not flagging the same 'fake news' in Spanish as in English. 

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On Wednesday, Nov. 3, several U.S. lawmakers and activists criticized technology companies in an online panel, saying they are doing a lousy job eliminating Spanish-language disinformation messages on social networks. 
 
The lawmakers claimed that tech companies are either dropping 'fake news' found in Spanish or failing to flag them on social networks after having removed or issued warnings about the same posts in English. 
The debate on the topic was organized by Senator Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico and Free Press Action, a political group against disinformation. 
 
Participants included Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Representative Tony Cardenas of California and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter, commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which regulates deceptive trade practices.
 
"Platforms use the vast majority of their resources to [eliminate] misinformation within English-language content," Luján said during the panel. 
 
In addition, Luján said people need the most up-to-date and truthful information to stay safe from diseases or when a natural disaster forces the evacuation of the cities, and also to see the accountability of public officials.
 
Luján, Cárdenas and Klobuchar sit on congressional committees overseeing communications and the Internet and consumer protection. 
 
The three have been pushing social media platforms like Facebook to increase their monitoring and blocking of 'fake news' in other languages, particularly about COVID-19 and vaccines they say is costing lives.
 
"The platforms are even further behind when it comes to cracking down on non-English information," Klobuchar said, adding that more than 100 languages are spoken in Minnesota. "Sometimes posts in Spanish never get flagged. You can still find Spanish-language Facebook posts from November 2020 that promote election lies without warning labels."
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