Social media experts saying Black and Latinx voters are targeted by disinformation, impacts voter turnout

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Ahead of the election, some Central Illinois voters said they have seen disinformation on social media almost everyday.

Cory Barker is an assistant professor in the communication department at Bradley University. Barker said as we move further into the digital age, it is easier to project false information. The tool comes in handy for people who intend to suppress votes and intimidate voters.

Election information is filling voters’ social feeds across the country, but social media experts like Barker encourage voters fact-check what they read.

According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “bad actors”, both foreign and domestic, are attempting to stop certain groups of people from voting by spreading false information.

They wanted to directly target those people to depress and suppress the vote to convince people not to vote because historically when people of color vote in the U.S., they tend to vote for the Democratic Party, and when they don’t vote, that’s a net win for the Republican Party.

Corey Barker, assistant professor in journalism/Bradley University

Alejandro Perez is a member of the Latinx community. Perez said he lately as he scrolls through social media he always stumbles upon false information.

Perez admitted to sharing a post on Instagram that highlighted an email allegedly sent by the Proud Boys group.

The screenshot of the email shows a message to a voter that said the group is in possession of all their personal information. The email reads, “You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you.” Perez said at first he believed it was true and shared it on his Instagram story. This is both voter intimidation and disinformation.

These emails could have been Russian and Iranian interference, an attempt to sow chaos and cause confusion. Perez is now committed to finding the truth.

“I at least always try to make an effort to make sure the sources which news sources are pulling from come from sources that are credible,” Perez said.

Perez even went as far as blocking Facebook users who sent him political articles with disinformation.

LaFelda Jones, a member of the Black community in Peoria, said she has seen fake information online too.

“You just have to sift through all of it to find the truth, but the truth is there,” Jones said.

Jones agrees that it is a targeted approach.

“If our voices weren’t so important, they would not be doing so much to not let our voices be heard,” Jones said.

Barker said voter disinformation is dangerous because it is effective. He said research shows broad interference and false information in the 2016 election impacted voter turnout.

He suggests fact-checking everything you read.

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