Advocates press Facebook to combat Spanish-language disinformation

Advocates press Facebook to combat Spanish-language disinformation
© Hill Illustration

Racial justice and internet accountability advocacy groups launched a campaign Tuesday pressuring Facebook to take action to combat what they called a crisis of Spanish-language disinformation on the social media platform. 

The organizations released a Spanish-language disinformation action plan that calls for Facebook to be more transparent about its content moderation practices as well as to hire and publicly identify an executive-level manager to oversee U.S. Spanish-language content moderation policy and enforcement. 

The action plan is part of the larger #YaBastaFacebook campaign the groups launched. As part of the campaign, the groups released a video highlighting the issues they see surrounding Spanish-language misinformation.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.) joined the organizations’ push for Facebook to crack down on such disinformation.

Cardenas said he will question Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Democrats press FTC to resolve data privacy 'crisis' House Oversight Democrat presses Facebook for 'failure' to protect users Hillicon Valley — Facebook 'too late' curbing climate falsities MORE about his plans to address the issue during next week’s House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. 

“We are going to be asking Mark Zuckerberg very direct questions, on the record, in front of everyone about Facebook's commitment to protecting Spanish-speaking users,” Cardenas said. “We expect more than rhetorical answers — we expect real and specific answers.”

Facebook has faced scrutiny over its handling of misinformation, specifically in Spanish, following last year’s election. 

Shortly after Election Day, Zuckerberg was asked during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing about what steps his company planned to take to address content moderation in Spanish.

Zuckerberg responded at the time, “We’re certainly committed to focusing on this.” 

ADVERTISEMENT

In response to the latest campaign, a Facebook spokesperson said the company is taking “aggressive steps to fight misinformation in Spanish and dozens of other languages.” 

The spokesperson noted that Facebook’s COVID-19 Information Center is available in Spanish and is providing free ads to health organizations to promote reliable information about coronavirus vaccines. 

“We’re continuing to work on stopping misinformation, including Spanish-language content, and want to continue our dialogue with these groups to strengthen our approach,” the spokesperson said. 

The statement, however, did not directly address if Facebook will implement the changes the groups are calling for in the action plan.

The Spanish Language Disinformation Action Plan was released by the Center for American Progress, Free Press, the National Hispanic Media Coalition and the Real Facebook Oversight Board, a group of tech advocates critical of Facebook and its newly launched oversight body. 

The groups said there are repeated examples of a Spanish-language disinformation gap stemming from translation issues, including failing to account for slang, dialects and context, as well as from poor fact-checking of Spanish news sites. 

“There is no excuse for lackluster content moderation in Spanish,” said Jessica González, co-CEO of Free Press. “Here in Facebook’s home state of California, more than 1 in 4 of residents speak Spanish. Facebook has been on notice and has decided to profit off hate and lies instead of keeping people safe and informed.”

Along with Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will testify at next week’s House hearing on misinformation.