This Friday the Chilean constituent process enters the final stretch with the launch of the electoral strip, where various groups, including the official and opposition partiesthey will defend the options “I approve” Y “Rejection” for him plebiscite on September 4, where the new text that would replace the Magna Carta that has governed the country since 1980 and that, despite the reforms, continues to maintain the burden of the Pinochet dictatorship that originated it, will be voted on.
However, on social networks and messaging services such as WhatsApp or Telegram, the campaign began practically since the Constitutional Convention began to meet on July 4 of last year. Biased information, false news, uncivil content and direct attacks on members of the left, especially representatives of indigenous peoples, took over the agenda and the conversations, affecting democratic deliberation along the same lines as the Trump and Bolsonaro campaigns. Studies such as the Observatory of the Convention of the U. Católica de Valparaíso or the Telar Platform coincide with the diagnosis: the constituent process was marked by misinformation.
Conspiracies and the end of private property
But in recent months the falsehoods about the constitutional text have intensified —paradoxically at the same time that it is downloaded online, distributed throughout the country and leads the ranking of best-selling books— from unusual Mapuche conspiracies to take control of the country, ban on practicing religion, the institution of policemen will be terminated, which can be aborted hours before the baby is born or the flag will be eliminated. However, perhaps because of the ridiculousness of these “hoaxes” promoted by politicians and right-wing influencersthe one that has transcended the most is the one that indicates that the State will be able to take away land and properties.
Even the former conventional Constanza Hube of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) was distributing leaflets that pointed out that and questioning President Gabriel Boric on his twitter: “His sector rejected time and time again the right to access one’s own home. Very little credible his convenient somersault”.
Something that made the president send him a DM: “Hello, Constanza. Why do you say that when I say the right to decent housing, I am denying that this is my own?” After an exchange that she herself was responsible for disseminating, the president replied “You are an intelligent woman, Constanza. I know that deep down you are aware of the intellectual dishonesty of your comment. I do not believe and have never believed that access to home ownership should be deprived. And this is just a sample of the polarized and unleashed environment on social networks at the same time that the polls continue to give winner to the Rejection, as the last Criteria released on Wednesday: 45% for the Rejection against 36% for the approval.
Fabian Padilla is the founder and director of Fast Check, one of the leading journalistic initiatives for checking information and that from the pandemic to the constitutional process has had a lot of work clarifying, denying and qualifying news that is immediately assumed to be true by audiences. too wide.
For him, the phenomenon of disinformation is more complex than simply saying fake news. Thus, false news is content that seems to be made by a media outlet, but contains false or partially false information, he explains. “Disinformation is part of what is now called information disorder (Information Disorder), which understands the phenomenon as all forms of false, inaccurate or misleading information, designed, presented and promoted to intentionally cause public harm or for money. In simple terms, the word is used many times in the world fake news, but they use it as a wild card for anything that seems false to them.”
– How do you see the panorama in this regard with the upcoming plebiscite?
– The communication landscape is complex. We have identified at least three types of common disinformation narratives about the Chilean constituent process. The first has to do with the contents, which at the beginning of the Convention was very strong, and today too, since the draft constitutional text is ready. An example, which was also in Chile, the fake news of the year, was something said by the UDI party during the 2021 electoral window for deputies, that the new constitution changed the anthem, the flag, even the name of the country. That did not happen, it has not happened, and it is one more of the strategies of fear that have been used. Another narrative is to attack conventional constituents, who have suffered controversy. The most emblematic was Rodrigo Rojas Vade, who was a conventionalist who raised the issue of the terminally ill as a banner of struggle, but later resigned from his position, after learning that he had lied about his illness and his treatments. He even had to return money. This character has been the subject of much misinformation. The same thing happened with Dr. Elisa Loncon, who is a representative of Mapuche town and the first woman president of the instance. About her, a lot of misinformation and hate speech circulated, marked by racism and misogyny. Finally, a last narrative has been false phrases awarded to members of the editorial body, which is the closest thing to fake news, since they went viral in the form of news from invented media. All this has gone viral with force and Fast Check has had to fact check relentlessly.
– It seems that, just like in the US or Brazil, there is an army of young people making memes, altering media, clipping videos based on the right, an “alternative” right that occupies more traditional humorous or aesthetic elements from the left. Is it so?
– The only thing I know, if it can be said this way, youtuber-que-unio-a-la-right/”>is an exclusive interview that we published in Fast Check, with the Chilean right-wing youtuber, Kripto, who after actively promoting the “Rejection” option in the first plebiscite, repented and confessed, without mentioning names or financiers, that he was invited to an office in an exclusive neighborhood of Santiago, where many young people generated disinformation for the campaign of the first plebiscite. In other words, a kind of Chilean War Room, a model invented by Steve Bannon, a former Trump adviser, to intoxicate social networks with false information and hate speech.
– What is the real level of influence of disinformation in a process such as the Constituent Assembly and the plebiscite?
– It is a difficult question because its influence is relative and depends on what you understand as influence. What is clear so far is that there is no evidence that misinformation could change a person’s vote. This is the danger that emerged in the media, after Cambridge Analytica, however, if we understand influence as influencing public debate, what doubt can there be? The story of electoral fraud in the United States, promoted by Trump, influenced the discourse of those who stormed the capitol in January 2021. In Chile, we have been, in a short time, very exposed to important processes: Outbreak, Covid, Plebiscite, Super electoral cycle, which has relieved fact checking and, consequently, the investigation of false phrases and sayings, by influential people and viral content. All these milestones or significant moments generate misinformation more frequently. Fast Check was born during the Social Outburst of October 2019 and much of the information we had to verify was contained within the framework of daily days of violence against protesters. There was talk of torture, eye mutilation, repression, among others. In other words, at key moments in the country, such as an election or a national day of protest, the information channels are intoxicated with misinformation and it is there that fact checking should help to disentangle the false from the true.
– What is the target that can be most affected? for these contents?
– There is a certain transversality for disinformation, since social networks are well overcrowded today: young people are exposed to fake news on TikTok and older adults are exposed to fake news on WhatsApp. Of course, in areas with less Internet access, this probably won’t work, but lying has always been something transversal and historically very old. What changed was the level of virality they can achieve. Let us remember that in Chile, for example, about 30% use WhatsApp to get information. The same is happening with Facebook, over 50% use it for the same purpose. People use social networks more to consume news. But an important point is to say that misinformation grows in people with lower levels of schooling, since this affects the basic principle of understanding the difference between an opinion and a fact. Giving an opinion is a fundamental and legitimate right. It cannot be verified, because it is evaluative. But a fact is something factual, verifiable. An opinion that is based on a personal assessment is not something that can be considered as factual, but many people, who listen to politicians and authorities, confuse opinion with fact.
– What makes you most noisy about the issue of disinformation in Chile? For example, I am struck by how difficult it is to follow the origin or authorship of these pieces and, on the other hand, how difficult it is to control.
– What strikes me is that there is a lot of fake news about fake news. In terms of research, which is something I am passionate about, I have seen how many fellow journalists, computer scientists and communications researchers have worked hard to find answers to various complicated variables of disinformation. Especially, media effects on people, how to combat them, traceability of misinformation, among others that are often taken for granted, but there is no scientific information to support these claims. Another thing that is incredible is that journalism took on a new life with the massive and viral arrival of disinformation. In a country with a growing lack of reliability in the media, civil society itself, journalists and independent media have established fact checking projects to directly combat the problem. Finally, I am struck by the lack of regulation of social media platforms, by governments, but not with populist laws, but as the European Union is doing, for example, convening roundtables of experts, academic reports, meetings with platform authorities, among other measures that are well documented. social platforms they play a role in viralization and of course in preference algorithms. Although, of course, the ultimate culprits are the people who have made disinformation a hobby or a business. But social networking companies can be great allies in the fight and promotion of healthy and true communications.