“‘This is f—ing crazy’: Florida Latinos swamped by wild conspiracy theories; A flood of disinformation and deceptive claims is damaging Joe Biden in the nation’s biggest swing state.”

Politico:

George Soros directs a “deep state” global conspiracy network. A Joe Biden win would put America in control of “Jews and Blacks.” The Democratic nominee has a pedophilia problem.

Wild disinformation like this is inundating Spanish-speaking residents of South Florida ahead of Election Day, clogging their WhatsApp chats, Facebook feeds and even radio airwaves at a saturation level that threatens to shape the outcome in the nation’s biggest and most closely contested swing state.

The sheer volume of conspiracy theories — including QAnon — and deceptive claims is already playing a role in stunting Biden’s growth with Latino voters, who make up about 17 percent of the state’s electorate.

“The onslaught has had an effect,” said Eduardo Gamarra, a pollster and director of the Latino Public Opinion Forum at Florida International University.

“It’s difficult to measure the effect exactly, but the polling sort of shows it and in focus groups it shows up, with people deeply questioning the Democrats, and referring to the ‘deep state’ in particular — that there’s a real conspiracy against the president from the inside,” he said. “There’s a strain in our political culture that’s accustomed to conspiracy theories, a culture that’s accustomed to coup d’etats.”

Gamarra, a political science and international relations professor with extensive experience polling in Latin America and Hispanic voters in Florida, pointed to recent large-sample surveys of Latinos in the state and in the Latino-heavy county of Miami-Dade. They showed Biden underperforming with this crucial Democratic leaning segment of the electorate, though he’s still running ahead of President Donald Trump by double digits.The race overall in the state is essentially tied….

WhatsApp group chats are widely popular among Latin Americans and other immigrant communities in the U.S. because the app doesn’t require a U.S. phone number or specific mobile service provider, making it easy to stay in touch with family abroad via text or voice communication. Group chats within the closed network can easily be created with dozens of people anywhere in the world. Plus, iPhones aren’t as popular in Latin America — meaning iMessage chats are not an option for many.

Political campaigns, social justice movements and support groups have followed along, making WhatsApp a top tool for reaching voters in Latin America and from Latin America.

In South Florida, veteran Latino Democratic strategist Evelyn Pérez-Verdia noticed this summer that the WhatsApp groups dedicated to updates on the pandemic and news for the Colombian and Venezuelan communities became intermittently interspersed with conspiracy theories from videos of far-right commentators or news clips from new Spanish-language sites, like Noticias 24 and PanAm Post, and the YouTube-based Informativo G24 website.

“I’ve never seen this level of disinformation, conspiracy theories and lies,” Pérez-Verdia, who is of Colombian descent, said. “It looks as if it has to be coordinated.”

Republicans say people on both sides of the political aisle are sharing disinformation organically, although they can’t point to similar conspiracy theories espoused by the left. And they accuse Democrats of labeling every opinion or news story they disagree with as disinformation.

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