WhatsApp, KaKaoTalk make it easy to spread misinformation, especially among immigrant communities

Closed messaging apps popular among immigrant communities and those with families living abroad are crawling with misinformation.

11/28/2020 1:29:00 AM

Closed messaging apps popular among immigrant communities and those with families living abroad are crawling with misinformation.

Closed and encrypted messaging apps make it cheap and easy for users to send texts and make phone calls. But it's hard for fact checkers to monitor.

In Michigan, WhatsApp helped to spread a debunked text that targeted voters in the city of Dearborn. Michigan and Dearborn have the highest percentage of residents of Arab descent among states and cities in the U.S.On Election Day, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel warned about a message targeted at Dearborn residents that read: “URGENT ALERT: Due to a typographical error, Scantron ballots being used for the 2020 Election has swapped sensors. If you are intending on voting for Joe Biden, you must bubble in Trump and vice versa. –Federal Berue [sic] of Investigation.” 

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The American Civil Liberties Union heard multiple voters in Dearborn received the text and alerted the Attorney General's Office.People who called the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services, a Dearborn-based social services agency, said their parents had received the messages, which were also being passed around on WhatsApp.

Robocalls as well as WhatsApp and Facebook messages seeking to dissuade people from voting targeted Arab Americans, Rima Meroueh, the director of the National Network for Arab American Communities,, part of the USA TODAY Network.Meroueh said she  headtopics.com

saw an uptick in misinformation targeting Arab Americans and people of color this year. Not all of the misinformation is coming from inside the U.S., though the information coming from other countries isn't always part of a coordinated effort such as Russia's in 2016. 

"People from our community capture misinformation from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and circulate it back here," Osama Siblani said.Siblani, founder of The Arab American News, saw a video of French President Emmanuel Macron, which was dubbed in Arabic. In the dubbed translation, Macron insults Islam and makes outrageous statements about the Muslim community, Siblani said. But the translation was entirely false, Siblani said. Macron was talking about free speech, according to Siblani's wife, who is fluent in French. Siblani reached out to Facebook to have the video removed, but it is still available. 

The social media platforms are a major problem, Siblani said. People from the Arab American community will send Siblani stories they find on social media and ask if the post or video or image is true. He often tells them he isn't sure. His paper is a major source of news and information for Arab Americans and he said he doesn't have the time to correct everything coming across his readers' social feeds.

"There is no way to stop this tide, no way we are able to compete," Siblani said. "The truth is lost."Ideas Beyond Borders is a nonprofit that, in part, tries to combat misinformation. It was started by human-rights activist Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, an Iraqi-born American who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 2013. Ideas Beyond Borders worked with Wikipedia to make sure all information about U.S. elections is constantly updated and verified, Al Mutar told the Free Press. headtopics.com

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يقال إن هذه مظاريف بريدية كلها لصالح ترامب.هل هذا صحيح؟وهل الأمريكان بهذه السذاجة لدرجةإنهم يرموا اصواتترامب البريدة في الشارع ؟طب ما كانوا أعدموها أفضل!!! Read more: USA TODAY »

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That’s Hilarious. USA Today is the rag that needs to be fact checked! False information on media sites needs to be fact checked or stated as no evidence that this is correct! Lesson 1: Don't ever ever believe on the information of a WhatsApp sound file/message that 'went viral' IT IS NEVER TRUE thanks Wow, come up with a more xenophobic tweet why don't you?