Share

Read more about the episode here.

Maria Hinojosa: This is Latino USA, the radio journal of news and cultura. It’s Latino USA. It’s Latino USA. Welcome to Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa. We bring you stories that are underreported, but that matter to you. Overlooked by the rest of the media. And while the country is struggling to deal with these problems. We listen to the stories of Black and Latino students. A united Latino front. A cultural renaissance. Organizing at the forefront of the movement. I’m Maria Hinojosa. ¡No se vayan! 

Tamoa Calzadilla: I think that the most important thing to combat disinformation and misinformation is learn to use or improve your skills and critical thinking. Your skills is about how I consume the information, because a lot of information is available to everybody, but nobody teach you how to consume that. (MUSIC) 

Maria Hinojosa: From Futuro Media and PRX, it’s Latino USA. I’m Maria Hinojosa. Today, “Desinformación.” How to combat disinformation in our Spanish-speaking communities. It’s a new episode in our election year series, “The Latino Factor, How We Vote.”

(MUSIC) 

For decades now, every new election cycle in the United States brings with it disinformation campaigns. 

News: “There are plenty of dubious videos out there that would have you believe U.S. election officials really are up to something.” 

“Tech companies are struggling to curb the spread of misinformation and disinformation this election year.”

“Election interference and targeted disinformation campaigns on voter fraud are a real threat in the upcoming U.S. election.” 

Maria Hinojosa: And studies have shown that Latinos are more likely to consume and share misinformation. 

Tamoa Calzadilla: We understand that Spanish-speaking communities are more vulnerable to disinformation because of the lack of reliable sources because the platform are not doing the same effort that they are doing in English to moderate or monitor disinformation in Facebook, Google, YouTube, et cetera.

Maria Hinojosa: That’s the voice of journalist Tamoa Calzadilla. Tamoa is the editor-in-chief of Factchequeado, which would be the Spanglish way of saying something is fact-checked, you know, factchequeado. And for those who are not too familiar with what fact-checking means, it’s the process of verifying the accuracy of any information that a politician, journalist, commentator, or really anyone presents as fact to the public.

The rise of dis and misinformation has pushed many news outlets to make fact-checking part of their editorial processes and led to the creation of independent organizations like Factchequeado, which combats disinformation specifically in Spanish speaking communities in the U.S. 

For Tamoa, a former investigative journalist with more than 30 years of experience, truthful and reliable journalism is vital.

And this goes back to her own experience working under a repressive regime in Venezuela, the country where she was born. 

Tamoa Calzadilla: We endured difficult times over there because we published investigations against the government, the regime, about corruption, about political prisoners, about violations of human rights, and I was censored when I intended to publish that kind of investigations with my team.

Maria Hinojosa: In 2014, her husband, himself a photojournalist, was detained by military groups while he was on an assignment. 

Tamoa Calzadilla: With my husband in jail, a lot of people, a lot of friends and colleagues say the same thing. You have to leave Venezuela right now. You have to came to the United States. You are in danger. 

Maria Hinojosa: But Tamoa couldn’t accept the idea of leaving her work or Venezuela.

Tamoa Calzadilla: I had one response. Every time I said, I want to be a journalist. And I don’t know if I could be a journalist in another country. I don’t speak English.

(LAUGHS) (MUSIC) 

Maria Hinojosa: She had no choice. One year later… 

Tamoa Calzadilla: I was landing in Miami, Florida, with my suitcase, my two children and my husband to became an immigrant in the United States. 

Maria Hinojosa: And as Tamoa found a new home in the U.S. she also found a new calling as a journalist leading the first Spanish-language, fact-checking organization in the United States based at Univision and its name is “El Detector.”

Tamoa Calzadilla: I became a fact-checker during difficult times for the United States and for immigrants because it was during an electoral campaign. First, 2016. 

News: “From the wall to mass deportations, to a temporary Muslim ban with extreme vetting.” 

“A vote for Trump is a vote for hate!”

Tamoa Calzadilla: And then, 2020, when we had elections, but at the same time, COVID-19 pandemic.

News: “Around the world, journalists find themselves debunking wild claims.” 

“You need to microwave your mail to kill the COVID-19 virus.” 

Maria Hinojosa: In 2022, Tamoa joined Factchequeado, a project of two organizations that had 10 years of experience of fact-checking in Spanish, one from Argentina, the other from Spain. 

Factchequeado has a website and social media channels where they publish their investigations, but they also have a WhatsApp number where anyone can send a message or image that they find suspicious.

Tamoa Calzadilla: I’m so happy to serve my community, Latino communities, Spanish-speaking communities, people like me struggling with the language and other issues. 

Maria Hinojosa: In this episode, Tamoa is going to share how disinformation works, and she’s going to offer some step-by-step advice on how to combat this disinformation in our communities.

So now, here’s Tamoa Calzadilla in her own words. 

Tamoa Calzadilla: Misinformation is when it’s not clear about the intention to deceive people. But disinformation is when you detect that this content is spreading with the intention of deceive people. In South Florida, we have a situation with radio stations. The people here listen to radio shows with hosts, conservative hosts, that spread a lot of  disinformation and opinions.

News: “Esto pasa en un país que viene de nueve meses que hemos visto ciudades destruidas.” 

Tamoa Calzadilla: The people are hearing many kinds of disinformation in this radio show. 

News: “Los radicales de izquierda asesinaron varios policías, se quedaron calladitos.” 

Tamoa Calzadilla: At the same time, they are going live in Facebook or YouTube, and the people spread that in social media, in X, in other platforms. 

News: “Dicen aquí, el social media group dice, un poquitico, digan algo.”

Tamoa Calzadilla: You hear the comparison between socialist dictatorships in Latin America with the Democratic Party. 

News: Si los Demócratas ganan el Senado, ya tienen la Cámara de Representantes y ocupan la presidencia, dentro de dos o cuatro años no vamos a conocer el país.” 

Tamoa Calzadilla: They speak about situations that never happened, and the people are confusing because it’s complicated. The politics is complicated. 

One of the things that I figured out when I began to do this kind of work is that we had to prepare journalists and train people to do fact-checking. But not traditional fact-checking; fact-checking to serve Latino communities.

You have to be bilingual. You have to understand and interview in English, but you have to write and explain that in Spanish. But Spanish is not a monolithic language. We have Spanish from Venezuela, from Cuba, from Puerto Rico, and different ways to name the same thing, at the same time, you have a lot of people with different approach to the political issues, to different cultures, struggling with a lot of things, and raising children and trying to do the best in this country.

We understand that disinformation can provoke wrong behavior, cause confusion. The consequences are vast. We could see that in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the people spread misinformation about the medicines. 

News: “The Food and Drug Administration was forced to warn against using a medication to treat livestock as a treatment.”

Tamoa Calzadilla: One of the big problem with disinformation is the distrust in institutions and organizations, in the science, in reliable sources, because disinformation create a very different reality. And the people listens to something that they want to believe and it’s very difficult to move people from that position because this information look for the feelings for the emotions and the journalists who combat disinformation.

We are trying to explain what happened with scientists and reliable sources and data in the ways that the people have to do an effort to think not feeling.

I have to say that this will be the first presidential election amid the boom of the generative artificial intelligence. 

News: “More than a week since a robocall to voters used an AI voice of President Biden to tell them not to vote in the New Hampshire primary and we still do not know who was behind it.”

Tamoa Calzadilla: These kind of tools are free and are widely in internet. For example, we could see in 2023 some political ads using artificial intelligence. One of them was a video, “What if Biden wins?” 

News: “The Republican National Committee this week using computer-generated video to show apocalyptic what-if scenarios for President Biden to be reelected.”

“It feels like the train is coming off the track.” 

Tamoa Calzadilla: It was a creation by artificial intelligence and show a chaotic situation with lines to look for food and medicine, war, military jets, etc. That video said this was created by artificial intelligence. Very small, very little words, but I think that is not sufficient to the people understand that it is not real, that this is a creation.

We are concerned because we have no regulations. There are no clearly rules about the use of artificial intelligence in campaigns or another field. And it’s very easy to deceive people with that images, audios.

(MUSIC) 

I think that the most important thing to combat disinformation and misinformation is learn to use or improve your skills and critical thinking. Your skills about how I consume the information because a lot of information is available to everybody, but nobody teach you how to consume that, how to know what is a reliable source.

Just with some steps or some little things you can combat disinformation. 

First, check your feelings because if some content makes you very angry or very happy or very sad, probably something is wrong. 

Second, check the source. Who is sending this information? Is it a reliable source? Is it a journalist? Is it science? You know that source? Don’t be shy to ask to abuela, uncles, aunts, cousins. How did you know that? Did you record this? It’s better if you ask the specific questions. 

Other thing that we say to our audience is check if this account in social media is a parody. Because sometimes it’s satire content and the people are confused about that and believe that this is true.

Other thing is very easy. You can use Google and Google Lens to check and verify yourself. If that photo that you received was published another time in other situation. Or you can look at for the original video of a specific event. For example, if you are watching a video with the candidate saying something in general, they are public events and you can find the original video. 

Please use the chatbot of Factchequeado and others, and you can send that photo, that image, that video, that audio, and you can ask, is this real? Is this false? And you are going to receive an answer, and then you can share with your group, family, or friends.

I recommend always, please be kind. It’s your family, it’s your friend, and it’s misinformation. I think that it’s not the intention to deceive people. The people are scared. The people want to share with you because they care about you. 

And the best way to explain to your friend or to your uncle about this content is in private, not in the group and you can ask questions. 

The most important, if you are not sure about the content, please don’t share it.

(MUSIC)

In Factchequeado we are building a big alliance around the world because the idea is to do this together. Combating disinformation, affecting Spanish-speaking communities is a collaborative work. We have more than 60 allies, media outlets, and organizations in different parts of the country, 20 states plus Puerto Rico right now.

And every single Thursday we have a meeting with all our allies and we discuss what kind of misinformation or disinformation we are seeing in our communities, in our audience, or what kind of narrative of disinformation do damage in our Spanish-speaking communities. We listen to our partners in the border, in the Midwest, in South Florida, in New York, et cetera. And we can understand what’s going on over there, what’s going on at the border, what’s going on in California. And with that input, we can prepare the articles, videos, et cetera. I think that the same thing that provoked the vulnerability of Spanish-speaking communities as the use of WhatsApp. We can use that and help others to understand what’s going on in social media, what’s going on with artificial intelligence.

Latino communities culturally are groups with a lot of sense of group family and sharing. I think that we can use the power that we have as Latino, the ways that we speak with our abuelas, tíos, amigos, to help others to understand better what’s going on over there in social media, in other platforms. I think that we can do this together more effectively with the collaborative work. (MUSIC) 

Maria Hinojosa: That was journalist Tamoa Calzadilla, Editor in Chief of Factchequeado. You can find more resources on how to combat disinformation in our communities on our website. That’s latinousa.org, again, that’s latinousa.org.

This episode was produced by Victoria Estrada. It was edited by Andrea López-Cruzado and mixed by Stephanie Lebow. The Latino USA team also includes Reynaldo Leaños Jr, Glorimar Márquez, Marta Martínez, Mike Sargent, Nour Saudi and Nancy Trujillo. Peniley Ramírez is our co-executive producer. Our senior engineer is Julia Caruso. Our marketing manager is Luis Luna. Our theme music was composed by Xenia Rubinos. I’m your host and co-executive producer, Maria Hinojosa. Join us again on our next episode. In the meantime, guess what? You can now find us on YouTube and on TikTok, and I’ll see you a lot on Instagram. Hasta la próxima. ¡No te vayas!

Ciao! (MUSIC)

Stephanie Lebow: Latino USA is made possible in part by The Ford Foundation, working with visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. And the Tao Foundation. (MUSIC) 

Tamoa: Ay, yo sufro con el inglés.

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.