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Disinformationists Will Target Communities of Color in 2024

Disinformation raged through social media during the 2020 election. Facebook ads targeting Latinos and Asian Americans described Joe Biden as a communist. A local station said the cofounder of Black Lives Matters practiced witchcraft. None of these and other lies have any basis in fact, but they roared through communities of color.

Experts expect that disinformation specifically targeted at various communities of color will be enormous in 2024. They say that this represents a huge shift from how disinformation campaigns used to work and that 2020 was only a test run.

In the past, the typical consumer of disinformation was an old white man in a rural area who didn't follow politics much but had strong opinions on political issues. That may change in 2024, where immigrants whose first language is not English will be high on the list of targets. Many of these people come from countries where voting is a sham, if it is done at all, so they may be predisposed to believing wild stories about voting, elections, and candidates.

The purveyors of the disinformation are going to finely tune each message to some group where it could resonate. For example, people from Latin America who are now U.S. citizens could be vulnerable to stories saying that Democrats want to turn the U.S. into countries like the ones they fled. Immigrants from Mainland China or Hong Kong could be swayed by lies about how Joe Biden is a secret communist.

Immigrants who have become U.S. citizens but whose English is weak may rely on translations of instructions on how to register and vote. Bad actors could flood the zone with false information in languages other than English, and this could easily fly under the radar. The information could be spread on WhatsApp or WeChat and easily escape detection by election authorities, who might otherwise try to get correct information out there in multiple languages.

Since Elon Musk fired most of the people who used to work at Twitter, he couldn't police disinformation, even if he wanted to, which he doesn't. Whether Threads will police disinformation remains to be seen. Changes to WhatsApp (such as "communities") make it easier to spread disinformation within targeted communities even faster than before. And given the multiple languages used by immigrant communities, fact checking just in English won't be nearly enough. (V)

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