In recent years, fake news has influenced electoral process around the world and Latin America has not been immune. According to a study carried out by the cybersecurity company Kaspersky in conjunction with the Chilean market research consultancy CORPA, “70% of Latin Americans cannot identify fake news on the Internet.”
The CEO of a fact-checking company operating in Latin America explains, “Latin America is the continent with the most fake news due to the ease of buying a SIM card, the ease of exchange information without control of any kind and above all, at a political level, politicians themselves are using the press to attack potential candidates.”
There are several media platforms that are offering services to verify information, but at the same time not all these platforms have been verified themselves. There are also external communication companies that have set up platforms to identify fake news, but a communications expert in Mexico warns, “The fact that 4-5 journalists get together to verify news and also use the platform as a means of communication is no guarantee of the truth.”
“The fact that 4-5 journalists get together to verify news and also use the platform as a means of communication is no guarantee of the truth.”
Communications expert, Mexico.
The pandemic has accelerated the proliferation of fake news according to a media executive, “The fight against COVID-19 in Latin America has been harmed by fake news. People believe more what a family member or friend says on Twitter or WhatsApp than what the authorities tell you through official communications. All the ministries of health have enabled portals with all kinds of reliable information but they have not had any impact.”
“The fight against COVID-19 in Latin America has been harmed by fake news. People believe more what a family member or friend says on Twitter or WhatsApp than what the authorities tell you.”
Media executive, Colombia
Several countries in Latin America have laws and regulations related to the right to privacy and the protection of data. Mexico, for example, has the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data, the INAI. Colombia and Brazil have similar institutions.
Argentina, recently launched “NODIO” an Observatory of Disinformation and Symbolic Violence in Media and Digital Platforms. This was a relevant and timely action, but it has been hugely critised by the Argentine Journalism Forum (FOPEA) and other professionals in this sector as they see clear risks to the freedom of speech.
Balancing freedom of speech with the fight against fake news in the age of social media is a challenge that many governments are wrestling with globally. As general elections are increasingly won and lost through social media, the stakes have never been higher.