How Does Disinformation Impact Communities of Color?
Join us and spread the word to your community
Disinformation targeted at communities of color represents a growing threat, as found by the Propaganda Research Lab at UT Austin’s Center for Media Engagement. Studies by the Propaganda Research Lab yield four key findings:
1.) Encrypted messaging apps are critical vectors for false and misleading information
- Certain encrypted messaging apps such as WhatsApp are used disproportionately more by people of color as a platform for political discussion. Nefarious actors may take advantage of these civic spaces -- which are defined by trust, close relationships, and authenticity -- to promote false and misleading information.
- Information circulating in these encrypted messaging apps is often characterized by a cascade logic. That is, information is either “trafficked upstream” (from private conversations into the mainstream) or “downstream” (allowing information to withdraw from the public eye). As information moves through these channels, it is easily distorted and decontextualized.
2.) Minority groups are targeted by unique strains of propaganda
- Specific tactics and themes of misinformation are tailored towards minority groups. This risks disenfranchisement of these populations and undermines their trust in the democratic system.
3.) COVID-19 dis- and misinformation affecting communities of color
- Dis- and misinformation about COVID-19 disproportionately affects communities of color. One key reason is the historical injustices that minority groups have faced in the medical system, which foment skepticism and distrust.
4.) Structural factors of our information environment inhibit the democratic inclusion of communities of color
- Communities of color are vulnerable to structural issues relating to long-term efforts to control minority groups’ access to, and understandings of, the country’s electoral and media systems.
- Disinformation is a social and cultural problem first rather than just a technological one. False information targeting communities of color is often circulated through offline channels such as mailers and print advertising.
- Online attempts to undermine minority groups’ participation in our democracy are worsened by structural disadvantages related to the broader information environment.
The Propaganda Research Lab also highlights solutions to mitigate the damaging effect of disinformation on communities of color:
- These efforts should be supported by bottom-up, community-centric, and regionally and linguistically specific programs
Understand the significance of electoral propaganda for minorities and communities of color in order to create more inclusive democracies
- Discussions must include equitable representation from minority groups
Read the full report and testimony HERE
Learn more HERE
Authored by Gabriela Paz-Soldan