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How misinformation & fake news affects immigrant communities

Posted at 9:47 AM, Jan 28, 2021

(WXYZ) — We think of misinformation of social media often as something for or against a political party, but sometimes, it's much more.

This week is News Literacy Week, and our entire company is taking a look at how fake news affects people and how you can spot misinformation.

In minority communities, misinformation can cause families to keep their kids from schools and parents going to work.

“We’re trying to provide the information community members should have," Activist Moises Moreno said.

Moreno is on a mission to keep the immigrant community well informed. He said the first say Trump got elected in 2016, rumors in the community circulated online claiming mass immigration arrests.

Morena said it was that moment when pro-immigrant organizations created a rapid response network to educate immigrants with accurate information.

“If and when ICE is spotted in the community, there is a process which we verify there is a responsible and direct response. To make sure the information we have is valid," he said.

He also helps weed out rumors. Recently, some residents reported alleged ICE vehicles parked in their neighborhood. They thought they were there to conduct a raid. In reality, they were just there to have lunch.

The fear prompted misinformation online, warning people not to go to work because of possible immigration raids, leaving immigrant workers on edge.

“I felt like I could not leave my house. Overall if I could pick one word—destabilizing," Paola Zamora said.

Fake news also caused tension in a community during the George Floyd protests. Although sporadic problems in the Chicago-area neighborhood were stopped by police, it created paranoia.

Alderman Byron Sigcho-Lopez is part of the rapid response network. He blames extremist groups for posting that Black looters were targeting his neighborhood. In reality, few issues were reported.

“There was a fake social media post that we're instigating violence in the community and pitching communities against each other," Sigcho-Lopez said. "We continue to see white supremacists that are posting in social media, taking advantage of the immigrant community who are afraid.”

Both Sigcho-Lopez and Morena say to be skeptical if the social media post says "I heard" or "I saw" but doesn't attribute the information to a specific well-known source or agency.

Be skeptical if a post appears to be jumping to a conclusion, such as a poster seeing a dark SUV and posting that it must be part of an ICE raid.

“Let's question the source first. Is it a credible source? We don’t want to take the notion of fake news to heart. We understand that it is also a weapon used in our community to further divide us," Morena said.