Until just a few months ago, the United States had a president whose answer to everything was the de-legitimization of information and the spread of ‘fake news.’ While misinformation is not an invention of the previous administration, the last four years have given digital information manipulation a new platform.
To the point that one of the most powerful countries in the world was among the last to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, all thanks to misinformation around the new coronavirus in early 2020.
For the Latino community in the U.S., this problem is twofold.
Hispanics in the country are one of the communities most impacted by the pandemic, having a hospitalization rate five times higher than that of white citizens. But when it comes to misinformation, Latinos have been the target of an aggressive campaign of disinformation, especially since last November’s election.
According to Tom Perez, the former Democratic Party chairman, “the volume and sources of Spanish language information are exceedingly wide-ranging, and that should scare everyone,” he told AP News.
A nonpartisan academic report released this past month said most false narratives in the Spanish-language community “were translated from English and circulated via prominent platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, as well as in closed group chat platforms like WhatsApp, and efforts often appeared coordinated across platforms.”
“The most prominent narratives and those shared were either closely aligned with or completely repurposed from right-wing media outlets,” said the report by researchers from Stanford University, the University of Washington, the social network analysis firm Graphika and Atlantic Council’s DFRLab, which studies misinformation online around the world.
That’s why the publication of a guide to fighting misinformation released by Google last Wednesday is more timely than ever.
According to the tech giant, fact-checkers around the world have had a busy year. More than 50,000 new fact checks appeared on Google Search last year, and all fact checks received more than 2.4 billion impressions on Search in that period.
A new report supported by the Google News Initiative found that fact-check corrections reduce the effects of misinformation on beliefs about crucial issues such as the COVID-19 vaccine.
But we can also help break the harmful chain of fake news and misinformation that permeates the web.
Thoroughly research sources
Before sharing information you don’t know, be sure to thoroughly research the source. Google recommends searching for the website, tapping the menu icon, and getting more information about the result in the “About” section. If you cannot corroborate the source, you can ask Google to remove the results from the domain itself.
Always try to find multiple sources to corroborate the data.
Images also contribute to misinformation
A picture is worth a thousand words. But an image can also be taken out of context or edited to mislead. You can search with an image by right-clicking on a photo and selecting “Google Image Search.” You can do the same on mobile by touching and holding the image. This will search for the image to see if it has appeared online before and in what context, so you can see if it has been altered from its original meaning.
Similarly, use Google Maps, Earth, or Street View if it is a location.
False stories about events happening in faraway places can spread because of our unfamiliarity with their location. If you want to get an idea of whether a photo is really of the location it claims to be from, try checking Google Earth or looking at the Street View of a location on Google Maps.
Consult the fact-checkers
Fact-checkers may have addressed that random story your relative sent you in group chat – or a similar one that will point you in the right direction to find out what really happened. Try searching for the topic in the Fact-Check Explorer, which collects more than 100,000 fact-checkers from reputable editors around the world.