That is true! Seven in ten Latin Americans do not detect or are uncertain about the difference between fake news and real news on the Internet. This is what a study conducted by Kaspersky and Corpa said between December 2019 and January 2020. Despite advances in communication and information technologies, today we are lost in the middle of an ocean of disinformation and all indicates that the storm that this generates will not diminish.
There was a time when calm reigned, when, believe it or not, the Internet did not exist and information was not just a click away. To find out what was going on around us, our parents used the newspapers, radio or television. Our grandparents weren’t even born with it and had to be content with paper or radio waves. The same thing happened with knowledge: if they wanted to know something or solve a question, they would look in books or turn to other people.
Time passed in slow motion and the world seemed to be a less dangerous place. Even more tragedies could happen than today, but at least we didn’t know everything and the media gave us more time to deal with the woe between woes. Today, we are faced with a radically different scenario: new information and communication technologies allow us to access many sources of information almost in real time.
But that’s not all, since they also form new forms and spaces of social relations. Debates about politics or economics no longer necessarily take place in the squares, in the classroom or in the living room. We can now discuss the future of the world with a man from North Ossetia without getting up from our chairs. All we have to do is log into Twitter, Facebook, or any other social network we can think of.
Our political leaders, who may have many flaws but do not forget the importance of connecting with the voter, are no strangers to this reality either. While at the start of the new century they timidly took a peek into the digital world, today it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have at least one profile on the many platforms out there. They send their photos, share videos and announce in a few characters their main contributions to humanity. And if you forget something, there are plenty of media out there to let us know.
Can we ask for more? An endless array of sources of information opens up before us. Well, I apologize for blowing your bubble: today, more than ever, we are surrounded by disinformation. Fake news factories are a new pandemic that is spreading at the speed of light and we are not always in a position to respond. In this case, unfortunately, Latin America is no exception.
The phenomenon of fake news in Latin America
According to the study by Kaspersky and Corpa, Peruvians are the main victims of fake news (79%), followed by Colombians (73%) and Chileans (70%). Then there are Argentines and Mexicans (66%) and Brazilians (62%).
The proliferation of fake news is not only the result of the emergence of new media and new information technologies. It is largely motivated by the creation of platforms specifically designed to influence political debate.
With many obscure funding sources, they seek to bolster certain policy options, using disinformation as a weapon of choice. In a few minutes, these malicious agents are able to cloud our judgment and sow confusion on issues as relevant to Latin American reality as poverty, inequality, insecurity or public health and the fight against the pandemic.
In view of this prospect, it would be truly commendable if our politicians would do their part to, as far as possible, contribute to accurate and responsible information. It is evident that they are not omnipotent gods capable of controlling all the flow of information, which is to be welcomed in the interest of free speech. However, it is somewhat disappointing that some use this resource during their political activity.
For example, presidents like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Mexico or Nayib Bukele in El Salvador used fake news during their election campaigns or even during their tenure. But they are not the only ones. By disseminating fake news, different political actors not only sought to distract from possible errors in their administration or discredit their opponents, but also positioned their political agenda.
The fake news allowed these politicians to target specific groups of the population, raise alarm or legitimize certain initiatives. The lack of disinformation control mechanisms, the existence of robots and the virality of social networks did the rest.
The consequences for political life
Once disinformation takes hold in our societies, the consequences are dire. The citizen becomes an easily manipulated individual, whose logic is based on false information and is particularly sensitive to sentimental and polarizing rhetoric which distances him from critical thinking.
This not only affects the consumer of fake news, but also puts the thoughtful citizen on the ropes, increasingly lost between extremes that come to be seen as the only points of reference. It is a blow to the quality of Latin American democracies, already threatened by many risks.
Therefore, it may be necessary to press the stop button for a moment and question all of those certainties that we consider to be incontrovertible. Let’s arouse our curiosity and put our ideas in quarantine. We will open more books, we will go to the corner kiosk to buy the newspaper, or we will invite that friend to a cafe who, although he may not agree with us on political matters, is always well informed.
No matter how many slogans and slogans they sell us, no matter how much prefabricated thinking we find in speeches from political actors or media, and no matter how much inaccurate information they offer us for. shaping reality, ultimately the only thing that will truly set us free and improve our lives will be the ability to think for ourselves. This is the truth of the lies.
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