Coronavirus
Facebook main source of vaccine misinformation among Latinos, study shows
Facebook has been a key source of misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines in the Latino community, according to a new study.

The study, which was conducted by Change Research on behalf of the Latino Anti-Discrimination Lab - a joint project of Voto Latino, a voter registration and engagement organization - found that 51% of Latino respondents said they will not get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The number rises to 67% within Spanish-speaking households. The two most commonly cited reasons against taking the vaccine, the study found, revolved around safety and effectiveness.

Additionally, the study found that misinformation about the vaccine is prevalent in Latino communities. The top reported platform spreading false or factually incorrect information was Facebook (49%), followed by local news (39%).

"These numbers should be alarming to anyone who wants to see us get through this pandemic," said María Teresa Kumar, co-founding president and CEO of Voto Latino said in a statement.

Additionally, the study found that 72% of respondents know someone in their household or community who is unwilling to take the vaccine.

Of those who are hesitant to take the vaccine, Latinos under the age of 50 (78%) and speak Spanish at home (49%) were found to be statistically the least likely to want to get a vaccine.

Slightly more Latino men (54%) than Latina women (48%) were found to be hesitant to take the vaccine, while just over one-third (34%) of women are only willing to accept a specific type of vaccine, compared to 25% of men.

Almost 40% of Latinos reported being exposed to material that makes them question the safety of the vaccine.

The study found that 72% of respondents know someone in their household or community who is unwilling to take the vaccine.

Another 20% said they'd received factually incorrect information, primarily through Facebook (53%) and other messaging apps including WhatsApp and Telegram.

In response, María Teresa Kumar said that "Voto Latino is launching a massive, coordinated response against the spread of disinformation."

María Teresa Kumar, co-founding president and CEO of Voto Latino.

"We invite those in government, business leadership, social media corner offices, and at home to join us in the fight against these dangerous lies."

Tom Perez, the former chairman of the Democratic national Committee and the co-chair of the Latino Anti-Disinformation Lab, said that "we're meeting a stronger threat with a stronger response - the truth."

"This powerful investment in Latino community communications infrastructure will help protect our community and the country, helping ensure that our families and friends will not be victimized by unchecked misinformation and lies again."

The poll's findings further illustrate both how central Facebook is to the larger disinformation problem and how their efforts to address false information - especially non-English disinformation - are grossly inadequate.

Lastly, Angelo Carusone, the president and CEO of Media Matters, said that "misinformation and disinformation have harmful consequences."

"The poll's findings further illustrate both how central Facebook is to the larger disinformation problem and how their efforts to address false information - especially non-English disinformation - are grossly inadequate," he said. "This is an alarm bell warning us about the increasing threat of disinformation targeting the Latinx community."

Experts have warned that misinformation in the Latino community can - and has - had an impact, both during the Covid-19 pandemic and politically.

Slightly more Latino men (54%) than Latina women (48%) were found to be hesitant to take the vaccine, while just over one-third (34%) of women are only willing to accept a specific type of vaccine, compared to 25% of men.

In an earlier interview with LPO, for example, Dr. Manuel Pastor, a political analyst and the director of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California, said that misinformation about Joe Biden drove many Latinos towards Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election.

There was a lot going on in Spanish-language social media. Misinformation that occurs in English gets reported by the Washington Post or New York times, but with misinformation that occurs in Spanish, nobody pays attention," he said.

"There was quite a bit of misinformation that Biden was a socialist and trying to paint the political situation as the end of capitalism and the beginning of communism under a Biden regime," Dr. Pastor added. "A lot of that would have been fact-checked in English and reported, but didn't. Spanish-language social media can whip people into a fervor." 

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