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Fake News Pandemic has skyrocketed: Latin America under a Fakecracy

The use of fake news in the electoral campaign is the root of misinformation and explains the critical reality that we have in Latin America. The power of fake news acts and achieve that the constituencies do not know what they are voting.

Matías Ponce
25 July 2020
Jairn Bolsonaro during his presidential campaign in 2018 accusing the PT candidate of promiting a "LGTB+ Kit" among school children..
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congressoemfoco.uol.com

What is the impact of fake news on democratic stability? In what way does fake news undermine confidence in the political system? How are the political actors using fake news to disseminate hate speech and divide our society? Furthermore, the most crucial thing, Why is this reality so critical for Latin American democracies? These questions are answered in the book titled FAKECRACIA, recently edited by a group of political communication researchers in the region.

"Fakecracy" (In Spanish Fakecracia) could be understood as a political system that uses fake news as the most critical political communication tool. For political actors, this is a resource to attack the political opposition; but behind the scenes, it is also a tool to undermine journalists' work and to disseminate hate speech.

The goal of this book is to understand the use of fake news in the political communication arena in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, México, Perú, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Additionally, we are looking to understand the influence of the use of fake news during the 2016 US Presidential Elections on the Latin-American elections between 2017 and 2019.

If you do a zoom in Latin America, all the political campaigns that we studied in the region have had a common factor: the use of fake news. For instance, we can find Nayib Bukele in El Salvador, Bolsonaro in Brazil, or Lopez Obrador in México.

Behind that political agenda, you can find human rights violations.

In that way, the "Fakecracy" starts to undermine the weak democracy in the region. The use of fake news undermines democracy because it is used to cover up real Latin American problems like poverty, inequality, insecurity, etc.

However, the negative impacts of fake news go farther. Behind the use of fake news, political actors hide their real intentions: a political agenda that seeks a public conflict against specific population targets.

Behind that political agenda, you can find human rights violations. Fake News in Bolsonaro's Campaign was used to affect LGBTIQ people and human rights defenders. Those images were used to harm the other candidates, but also to set the agenda for LGBT discrimination and Hate Speech.

So, why are these human rights violations so critical? Because they are growing by adopting bots on social media and even coordinating to disseminate these images.

Our book shows different examples to understand how Latin American political actors are using fake news through Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. There are many examples of how political actors are using fake news and stigmatization speech to pass an agenda that seeks to attack human rights defenders, journalists, and non-governmental organizations.

The use of fake news in the electoral campaign is the root of misinformation and explains the critical reality that we have in Latin America. The power of fake news acts and achieve that the constituencies do not know what they are voting. If the political campaign is guided by fake news, we are, as a society, losing the opportunity to compare the political offer based on a programmatic political debate (ideas and not political clientelism).

The use of fake news and the political intention to misinform people build a contract between citizens and political actors, which is not based on the solution of the real problems, but on keeping the social media conversations about "discourses" and not facts or answers to real problems. "I will hate those people (LGBT, Journalists, and Human Rights Defenders) more and more," could be a common phrase of campaigns in Latin-American elections. The promises won't regarding getting a better public policy; the promises are about something untouchable based in the attack against a specific target.

Hate speech based on fake news needs a political actor that works as a Savior, an outsider, and, following the political rhetoric, can defend "us" from the "others." When that has happened, misinformation and ignorance have skyrocketed, making the social division in Latin American countries more profound. When this has happened, misinformation and ignorance have skyrocketed, "haters" win the elections and have the power to do more in-depth the social break in Latin-America.

Moreover, the Savior is the candidate that promotes fake news and misinformation against specific targets.

The use of jurisprudence linked with defamation is the unique door to finding a legal solution when fake news or hate speech affects citizens.

However, despite the use of social media, fake news and misinformation are overused to attack political opponents, and turn the digital attacks into physical attacks, using legal persecution or promoting social discrimination toward specific groups. These actions could end up as hate crimes, as we can see in different Latin-American countries and the United States.

Another aspect that we review in the book is the fake news dissemination to replace or even attack journalists. There are many cases of "fake-journalists" dedicated to inventing fake news and acting as a focal point of bots (fake users on social media). They make up a story, which is shared on social media, and immediately there's a lot of fake users that try to flood social media with that content, which is based on fake news and hate speech. This industry has a great ally: a weak rule about financing campaigns. "Bot-centers" is a common currency in the region from Mexico to Argentina.

This scenario is a challenge for the region. There's an absence of international and local regulations in Latin American countries about fake news. The use of jurisprudence linked with defamation is the unique door to finding a legal solution when fake news or hate speech affects citizens. From the United Nations, with Verified Initiative and statements from UNESCO, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and other organizations show that misinformation and the dissemination of hate speech could be considered a human rights violation.

Fact-Check initiatives work as a defense mechanism against misinformation and hate speech promotion. The work among journalists, non-government organizations, and media could be a powerful alliance to fight against hate speech promotion. Regarding this, there are good examples in Latin America but insufficient if we see the power that fake news had in the elections of the last two years. More than ever, misinformation acts as the power to more profound social barriers and to put up walls that divide us.

Unete a nuestro boletín ¿Qué pasa con la democracia, la participación y derechos humanos en Latinoamérica? Entérate a través de nuestro boletín semanal. Suscríbeme al boletín.

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