The final stretch to the U.S. presidential election has been transformed into a headless train of anxiety, where organizations, activists and politicians desperately seek to protect democracy.
Yet, as the days go by, they seem to draw a macabre echo of what we experienced four years ago, just before Donald Trump won the electoral college and left us all frozen in our seats.
One of those symptoms has been the increase in cyber attacks and the proliferation of massive disinformation on social networks, which are specifically focused on the most contested electoral niches.
Among them, Latinos.
That is why Florida Representative Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, along with several Latino colleagues in Congress, have called on the FBI for an “immediate” investigation into the misinformation directed at Latinos, which was evident in an NBC News report and initially reported by Politico.
According to the media, Spanish-speaking residents of South Florida have been the target of an unprecedented attack of “wild disinformation,” among conspiracy theories and radicals, which obstruct WhatsApp chats, Facebook feeds “and even the airwaves.
“The onslaught has had an effect,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a pollster and director of the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University.
“It’s difficult to measure the effect exactly, but the polling sort of shows it and in focus groups, it shows up, with people deeply questioning the Democrats, and referring to the ‘deep state’ in particular — that there’s a real conspiracy against the president from the inside,” he said. “There’s a strain in our political culture that’s accustomed to conspiracy theories, a culture that’s accustomed to coup d’etats.”
According to NBC, the request for an investigation was made in a letter from Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, who is locked in a tight race for re-election, and Rep. Joaquin Castro of Texas, chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
“As we rapidly approach Election Day, Latino circles in South Florida have witnessed a surge in posts containing false or misleading information on social media. These posts are often politically charged and contain far-right conspiracy theories relating to ‘QAnon’ or other fringe ideologies designed to manipulate Latino voters,” the members stated in their letter.
Among examples cited by the congressional members were the racist and anti-Semitic remarks disseminated on a paid program aired in August by Caracol Radio, an AM radio station. It claimed that if Biden won the election, the U.S. would fall into a dictatorship led by Jews and Blacks. Caracol later apologized for the content and banned the commentator.
While disinformation on social media is problematic, “even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida,” the congressional members said.