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As Facebook continues its effort to reign in misinformation, some activists argue it isn’t enforcing its policies as adequately for Spanish-language posts in the U.S. — a failing that could impact the more than 59 million people who speak it.
Misinformation and disinformation posts in Spanish are similar to what you might see in English, but there are some key differences that specifically single out Latinx people on the platform in the U.S. In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election, fake news stories in Spanish tried to tie Joe Biden to socialism, a particularly damaging piece of misinformation given socialism’s history in authoritarian Central and South American governments, FiveThirtyEight showed. The New York Times reported that misinformation campaigns attempted to turn Latinos against the Black Lives Matter movement, too.
The spread of this particular misinformation prompted Democrats in Congress to ask the FBI to investigate disinformation targeting Latinx people, according to NBC News. After the election, the New York Times found that Spanish-language Facebook and Twitter accounts with massive followings routinely and repeatedly made false claims that Joe Biden stole the election from Donald Trump.
Now, Facebook is fueling misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine. In February, the platform banned all anti-vaxxer posts. On Monday, it unveiled a new plan to help people get vaccinated against COVID-19 by fighting misinformation and giving up-to-date information about the shot. But some advocates worry that enough work isn’t being done to stop the spread of misinformation in Spanish-language posts. According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, just 26% of Hispanic people in the U.S. said they would get the vaccine, compared to 40% of white Americans.
“There is no excuse for lackluster content moderation in Spanish,” Jessica J. González, co-CEO of Free Press, said in a Tuesday press release. “Here in Facebook’s home state of California, more than 1 in 4 of residents speak Spanish. Facebook has been on notice and has decided to profit off hate and lies instead of keeping people safe and informed.”
One issue with addressing these claims, critics argue, is that there’s a lack of data about misinformation on Spanish-language posts in the U.S., a nation with the second-largest Spanish speaking population in the world. But, according to a study from the human rights non-profit Avaaz, while 70% of misinformation in English is flagged with warning labels, just 30% of comparable misinformation in Spanish is flagged. Oscar Soria, an Avaaz campaign director, told KUNC that his group is working to compile new data on the issue, and it doesn’t seem to be improving.
“A lot of Spanish speakers are seeing and being exposed to different types of disinformation with conspiracy theories and fake news that are creating fear,” Soria told the news outlet.
Dipayan Ghosh, a former privacy and public policy advisor at Facebook who now leads Harvard’s digital platforms and democracy project, told Quartz that the platform has done a “pretty good job” on tackling disinformation in English-language content. “But the fact that this is bubbling up in Spanish suggests that [Facebook] hasn’t done a good job thinking about the Spanish language in the election context.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself said it was something the company needed to watch closely during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in November when Sen. Richard Blumenthal questioned him about what steps Facebook should take to improve Spanish-language content moderation in the U.S.
“This is something that we are already working on and worked on ahead of the general election,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re certainly committed to focusing on this.”
On Tuesday, Kevin McAlister, a spokesperson for Facebook, told Mashable that they have met with the organizations fighting to stop the spread of Spanish-language misinformation and are taking “aggressive steps to fight misinformation in Spanish and dozens of other languages, including by removing millions of pieces of COVID-19 and vaccine content.”
“We also understand that a key part of getting accurate information out is working with communities, which is why we’re providing free ads to health organizations to promote reliable information about COVID-19 vaccines,” McAlister said in an emailed statement. “We’re continuing to work on stopping misinformation, including Spanish-language content, and want to continue our dialogue with these groups to strengthen our approach.”
A spokesperson also defended its actions to The Hill in November 2020.
“Ahead of the election, we took a number of steps to combat misinformation in Spanish: we built a Spanish version of our Voting Information Center where people can find accurate information about the election and added two new U.S. fact-checking partners who review content in Spanish on Facebook and Instagram,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
A spokesperson for Facebook also told KUNC that they have removed “millions of pieces of content that could lead to imminent harm under our policies” and that they have added warning labels to 167 million of pieces of content and added 13 fact checkers focused on reviewing Spanish-language content.
But activists argue even then there isn’t enough transparency. In a statement calling for more action by Facebook to close its Spanish-language content moderation gap on Tuesday, a group of racial justice and internet accountability organizations demanded that Facebook “publicly explain the translation process of the algorithm and content moderation and share the training materials used to review whether content violates existing policy.”
The group of organizations — including the Center for American Progress, the Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Real Facebook Oversight Board — also issued a Spanish language accountability action plan and called on Facebook to hire a C-Suite position to oversee U.S. Spanish-language content moderation policy and enforcement. The groups cites examples of the “Spanish-Language Misinformation Gap,” ranging from translation issues to poor fact-checking.
“Disinformation targeted at Latinos is fueled by hate and hate is fueled by disinformation,” Brenda Victoria Castillo, the president and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, told Mashable. She added in a statement that Facebook has made “one thing perfectly clear: the safety and dignity of the Latinx community is not their priority.”
This comes just one week before Zuckerberg will testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee on March 25, where the group anticipates Zuckerberg will be forced to address Facebook’s U.S. Spanish-language disinformation.
“We demand real accountability from Facebook,” Carmen Scurato, a senior policy counsel at Free Press said in a press release. “We have issued clear demands and a realistic, actionable plan for Facebook. Ya Basta, Facebook — this needs to end.”
UPDATE: March 16, 2021, 12:26 p.m. EDT This post has been updated to include a response from Kevin McAlister, a spokesperson for Facebook.
ที่มา : Mashable