Ahead of midterms, a banner summer for election misinformation on Spanish social media and radio
Spanish-language media are fearmongering about fraud in the upcoming 2022 midterms, rehashing false claims from 2020
Right-wing Spanish-language media figures are spreading misinformation around the 2022 midterm elections, as well as misinformation primarily focused on Trump’s “big lie” about fraud in the 2020 election across Telegram and radio.
Social media platforms like YouTube have also enabled content rife with violative Spanish election misinformation to flourish long after their initial uploads on the platform, and although this misleading information also exists on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, right-wing Spanish radio and Telegram are particularly bad actors. These platforms regularly spread resurfaced misinformation about mail-in ballots and non-citizen voting. And after the FBI searched Mar-A-Lago for classified documents, some Spanish-language actors were fearmongering about the potential of fraud during the 2024 presidential election.
Spanish-language radio programs have been particularly explicit in their spread of election misinformation. Actualidad radio host Agustin Acosta recently called the 2020 presidential election “the greatest act of political corruption in the history of the United States,” while other hosts, like Americano Media’s Freddy Silva, peddled widely debunked claims about Dominion voting machine errors. Misinformation specific to the 2022 midterms has spread in the Latino community via translations of content from right-wing figures or outlets, like The Gateway Pundit.
General election misinformation primarily focused on the “big lie” and the 2020 election
Although voter fraud is extremely rare and the U.S. has strong checks in place to protect the integrity of the voting process, the right has weaponized election misinformation in order to undermine democracy. Right-wing actors continue to rehash the stolen election myth as a means to delegitimize the previous presidential election and to fearmonger about the upcoming midterm elections.
- Co-host of Cada Tarde Agustin Acosta stated that the 2020 election “is the greatest act of political corruption in the history of the United States” after suggesting that the press committed election-related crimes: “Those press people actually interfered with a federal election. Which is a crime. It's a felony of the highest degree. Because by suppressing the investigation of the Washington Daily — excuse me, the New York Post — by suppressing the New York Post, by censoring the New York Post’s account, by preventing the information from Hunter Biden's computer from coming out a few days before the election, they really altered the course of American history.” [Cada Tarde, 08/03/22]
- Acosta also said on Cada Tarde that “electoral officials” reported that “some 14 or 15 thousand people who voted were not citizens of the United States” in Nevada and Arizona. His co-host Carines Moncada added, “There are still some who say there was no fraud. Let’s assume that there was no fraud anywhere else, that is still fraud no matter where it is. It’s fraud. … To all those who want to paint this as ‘You can’t say the word fraud [about the 2020 election]’ I will say it three times: fraud, fraud, fraud.” [Cada Tarde, 7/25/22]
- Radio host Lucia Navarro, who was a guest on Entre Lineas, falsely claimed that vote-by-mail ballots led to election fraud and that the current administration is trying to manipulate the upcoming elections through mail-in voting. She said, “The ultimate goal right now, in the case of the United States, is to control the elections. And the way to control the elections is to instill fear into the people, and that's why they are using COVID, of course, and the monkeypox virus as well. Because the message is, 'Stay at home, don't worry, I'm going to bring you the ballot so that you can vote.' The problem is that this is the origin of the electoral fraud that took place in the last elections.” [Entre Lineas, 08/15/22]
- Americano Media personality Dania Alexandrino made false claims that illegal ballots were cast in the name of the dead or household pets. She argued that states amended their constitutions and many votes for Biden were illegitimate because “there are various cities where, reportedly, the dead voted and also where cats voted.” [En Perspectiva, 6/3/22]
- Alexandrino also resurfaced false claims about election fraud by arguing that Democrats were able to “tip the balance” by handing out mail ballots to everyone. She said, “Your dignity, your courage, your pocketbook are under attack. The Democratic Party and Joe Biden don't care about you, they only care about power, and that power, not only was granted to them by a few useful fools with the vote, but remember, they also achieved it by changing different rules in the build up to the 2020 election, where they used the pandemic to hand out mail-in ballots left and right to tip the balance of the election. [En Perspectiva, 6/22/22]
- Freddy Silva, radio host for Entre Lineas, pushed the conspiracy theory that Dominion voting machine errors removed thousands of votes for Trump. He said, “It all started in Antrim County, Michigan, one of the most Republican areas in the entire country. … Upon a preliminary hand count, it was discovered that there were actually 6,000 Republican votes that the system had counted for the Democrats. The software, which used Dominion voting, had a ‘glitch,’ that’s what it was called, and it miscounted 6000 ballots.” [Entre Líneas, 5/13/22]
- Conspiracy theory Telegram channel Verdades Ofenden resurfaced false claims from The Gateway Pundit of voting machine irregularities: “Joe Biden's electoral rigging is being exposed more and more every day. HUGE ELECTION UPDATE: Data supporting the reported results of the 2020 election do NOT match the data in voting machine files – something is very wrong.” [Telegram, translated to Spanish, 07/17/22]
- Telegram channel Noticias Patriotas shared a translated version of a post with false claims about the allegedly overlooked “massive evidence concerning the fraud and irregularities” during the 2020 elections, which were posted by an account that appears to be affiliated with Trump: “Why won’t the criminals on the Unselect Committee discuss the massive evidence concerning the Fraud and Irregularities having to do with the 2020 Presidential Election, the reason people came to Washington in the first place? Why won’t they discuss the 10,000 to 20,000 soldiers that I recommended, but weren’t used? Why won’t they talk about the fraudulent Russia, Russia, Russia Hoax, headed up by most of the same people who are now on the Unselect Committee? It’s all a big SCAM!” [Telegram, 8/8/22]
Misinformation around the 2022 primary and midterm elections
Spanish-language right-wing media figures also falsely claimed that the primaries were rigged, and fearmongered about the potential of voter fraud in the 2022 midterms. This type of election misinformation was prevalent on Telegram and in some right-wing Spanish radio shows.
- Moncada asked her co-host Acosta to make a bet that undocumented immigrants and non-citizens would vote in the upcoming midterm elections. Acosta responded saying, “I'm not going to bet on something I know I'm going to lose." [Cada Tarde, 7/25/22]
- Navarro, host of Actualidad Noticiosa, claimed that “the data” on inflation is made up to give Democrats an advantage ahead of the midterms. She claimed, “I am someone who firmly believes they are going to try to make up the numbers to make them a little less bad in order to show us that they’re fixing things and so on, and this kind of thing will happen between now until the midterm elections, but after that we are going to be shocked, like really shocked when they put us in double digit inflation." [Actualidad Noticiosa, 7/25/22].
- Conspiracy theory-themed Telegram channel The Beginning…Jose Francisco translated a Gateway Pundit article claiming “the Arizona establishment is doing everything in its power to buy and manipulate” Arizona’s primary elections: “The Arizona establishment is doing everything in its power to buy and manipulate this election. TGP reported statewide voter fraud concerns, including 63,000 incorrect ballots submitted by corrupt and negligent Arizona election officials.” [Telegram, translated from Spanish, 8/2/22]
- The Beginning…José Francisco and QAnon-themed channel Lima True Story shared a Real America’s Voice interview with Spanish subtitles in which John Fund encouraged voters to stop voter fraud by becoming observers: “If you are a blue state that hasn’t reformed its election laws, like Arizona and Georgia, and Texas has, make sure that you and your friends sign up not just to be election observers but to actually work at the polls, to work on election day to make sure that the process is coming along. … The thing that they have to understand is this: the best way to stop voter shenanigans and voter fraud is before the election, not on the day of the election or after.” [Telegram, 8/9/22, 8/9/22]
- Lima True Story and The Beginning…Jose Francisco also shared a translated version of a widely shared message claiming that mail-in ballots were subject to manipulation in the Arizona primaries: “Don't request mail-in ballots. If they are not magically sent to you, do not alert any planners that you will be getting off the couch and voting by requesting a ballot early. (Along with this - don't participate in polls from people and groups you don't know, don't answer random texts asking how you are voting. Don't let NGO groups plan a mule vote to offset yours).” [Telegram, translated from Spanish, 8/9/22, 8/9/22]
- QAnon-branded Telegram channel Noticias Patriotas claimed that all the Trump-backed midterm candidates are winning despite evidence of electoral fraud: “The red wave: Trump candidates win despite electoral fraud. Celebrations at Mar-A-Lago. All of Trump's endorsed candidates have prevailed in primary elections despite renewed voter fraud and ousted long-established, corrupt politicians. The plan is working and the foundations of a new America are being laid.” [Telegram, translated from Spanish, 8/7/22]