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Voto Latino and Media Matters are putting $22 million towards disinformation in the U.S. Latino community. Illustration by Kelly Rice via Getty Images

Voto Latino and Media Matters partner to tackle disinformation in the U.S. Latino community

The $22 million effort is the largest of its kind combating disinformation among the Latino community.

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On Thursday, Feb. 18, Voto Latino and Media Matters for America announced through a media release that they are launching a $22 million “Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab.” 

The Lab will be chaired by the co-founding President and CEO of Voto Latino, María Teresa Kumar, the president and CEO of Media Matters for America, Angelo Carusone and the former Democratic National Committee Chairman, Tom Perez. 

Voto Latino is a grassroots organization which aims to educate and empower Latinx voters, while creating a democracy that is stronger and more inclusive. Media Matters for America is a nonprofit media watchdog dedicated to tracking and exposing conservative misinformation. 

The media release stated that the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab is greatly needed. In the months leading up to the 2020 general election, voters encountered levels of misinformation higher than ever before. 

Voters were subjected to Spanish and English language voter fraud misinformation, fear-mongering tactics and disinformation about the coronavirus pandemic throughout the media as well as mainstream social platforms like Whatsapp, Youtube and Twitter. 

“This included a significant increase in false information targeting communities of color, disproportionately impacting Spanish-speaking audiences over the age of 40,” the release noted. 

So far, the disinformation lab is the largest investment aimed at targeting disinformation within the Latino community as a means of voter outreach. A considerable amount of energy will be focused on monitoring Spanish-language media and online communities. 

According to the release, the data collected from the media analysis will boost strategic efforts by Voto Latino to identify and communicate with Latino voters at risk for the dangers of misinformation. 

Thirty-four-year-old Maryland resident, Floridalma Galvez, told The Washington Post that she began receiving calls and WhatsApp messages involving vaccine misinformation weeks before any vaccine was even approved. 

Galvez received messages from cousins in Chicago, Florida and her native country of Guatemala spewing conspiracy theories, such as the vaccine being “the mark of the Beast,” a reference to the Antichrist in the Book of Revelation. 

Her family members first heard the theories from evangelical pastors at church and then passed it onto Galvez and other relatives through social media and group chats. They shared images and videos claiming that the vaccine would alter a person’s DNA. 

One of the most abundant sources of vaccine disinformation originated from a group called Doctores por la Verdad, or Doctors for Truth, which started in Spain and then moved to Argentina and a dozen other countries. Doctores por la Verdad pushed myths about the vaccine that eventually spread to the U.S. 

“We’ve got to address this threat head on with a substantial, focused and concerted effort,” said Perez.“It leverages Media Matters’ unique capacities and expertise at media monitoring and research with Voto Latino’s extraordinary organizing and strategic communications capabilities.” 

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