WASHINGTON, DC – Apparently the push to correct “misinformation” is thriving once again, as a group of Democratic representatives and senators sent out letters to messaging platforms Signal, Telegram, and WhatsApp to urge these platforms to help address the spread of “misinformation” that they allege has been getting circulated within “Latino communities.”
Over twenty members of Congress had signed onto these letters that were sent out on May 16th. Among the signatories were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib and Senators Amy Klobuchar, Robert Menendez, and Cory Booker.
In the letter addressed to Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, the lawmakers asserted there are “serious concerns regarding the rise of Spanish-language misinformation and disinformation,” and that “large group sizes such as WhatsApp, which supports up to 256 users per group,” is among the platforms where alleged misinformation is spreading rapidly.
These lawmakers basically pleaded with WhatsApp, as with the other messaging platforms, to devote to more censorious efforts via “hiring and adequately investing in staff who have the necessary cultural context, and implementing other tools to slow the spread of viral mis/disinformation.”
Basically, these members of Congress are asking private companies to not only censor objectionable content that the government labels as misinformation, but they’re also asking these companies to shell out some coin to operate as an extension of the government.
It was hardly surprising to see the examples of “misinformation” these members of Congress referenced when expressing their sense of urgency to deter free speech, raising the alarm about the 2020 election and COVID.
“Spanish-language mis/disinformation played a significant and concerning role in the 2020 presidential election and COVID-19 vaccination effort. Politico, for example, found that ahead of the 2020 presidential election, Spanish-speaking residents of South Florida faced a barrage of mis/disinformation through their WhatsApp chats in an attempt to influence their electoral choices.
“In regard to the COVID-19 pandemic, a study in First Draft, a project dedicated to fighting mis/disinformation online that includes organizations like Facebook and Twitter, found that WhatsApp is a popular platform for those who wish to foster and spread mis/disinformation- — and such mis/disinformation leads many Latino users into extreme, conspiratorial, antivaccine online spaces.”
But outside of pestering these companies about how they need to do more and spend more to combat “misinformation,” these lawmakers are also demanding answers as to what these companies are specifically doing and how much they’re investing monetarily in these sought after efforts.
“Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, stated that they are taking steps to curb mis/disinformation. Yet, the company has repeatedly failed to produce data and evidence on the effectiveness of these actions. This letter follows more than five previous letters sent by Member of Congress to Meta requesting such information, including information related to Meta’s Spanish-language content reviewers and moderators. Unfortunately, Meta has failed to adequately and comprehensively address these important questions.”
Keep in mind that, from a Constitutional perspective, these platforms are neither beholden to nor have to engage in the whimsical desires of government when it comes to censoring any kind of speech that is lawful. Hence, why platforms like Gab exist.
Nonetheless, this band of Democratic lawmakers are asking WhatsApp (and ostensibly Telegram and Signal, too) to respond to their inquiries by June 13th.