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Facebook's Failing To Flag Spanish-Language Misinformation, Analysis Suggests

 A zoomed in picture of a person's hand holding a phone scrolling through Facebook.
Adobe Stock

Last month, almost a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook cracked down on vaccine misinformation.

But researchers say the social media platform hasn't been flagging Spanish-language misinformation as effectively as it does in English.

An analysisof COVID-19 misinformation on Facebook by the human rights group Avaaz found that 70% of Spanish-language content deemed incorrect was not removed or labeled such, compared to 30% of the same content in English.

That analysis was published back in April 2020, but Oscar Soria, an Avaaz campaign director, says the group is now compiling new data, and the preliminary analysis shows little improvement.

“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 said.

He says Latinos use Facebook and Whatsapp as a primary source for information and communication, so this is detrimental to Spanish speakers as COVID-19 vaccines roll out.

Facebook defends its policies amid what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic.”

“We are taking aggressive steps to fight harmful COVID-19 misinformation on our platforms in dozens of languages, including Spanish,” a Facebook spokesperson told the Mountain West News Bureau in a written statement. “We've removed millions of pieces of content that could lead to imminent harm under our policies. We’ve also added warning labels to more than 167 million pieces of additional COVID-19 content thanks to our network of fact-checking partners, including 13 partners reviewing Spanish-language content.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Stephanie Serrano (she/her/ella) is an award-winning multimedia bilingual journalist based in Reno, Nevada. Her reporting is powered by character-driven stories and is rooted in sound-rich audio. Her storytelling works to share the experiences of unserved communities in regards to education, race, affordable housing and sports.
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