Secretary of State Antony Blinken pledged Tuesday to step up US government resources against disinformation in Spanish, warning of a spike in fictitious reporting — and violence against journalists — in Latin America.
Addressing journalists from the region on the sidelines of the week-long Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, Blinken announced that the State Department was launching a new “Digital Communication Network” for Latin America.
The network, which already has hubs in Europe and Africa, is funded but not administered by the State Department and brings together journalists for training and exchanges on best practices.
Blinken said that the breadth of disinformation was “staggering,” pointing to a fictitious story that said Covid-19 was a bioweapon generated in Canada, which had 2.1 million views over 90 days compared with 25,000 engagements with all the World Health Organization’s social media.
“We’ve seen how such falsehoods can polarize communities, poison the public square and undermine people’s trust in health systems, government institutions and democracy itself,” Blinken told the event held with Arizona State University.
Blinken said that “governments and other actors” have spread disinformation about Covid, “including deliberately targeting Spanish-language social media in this region.”
The United States has previously accused Russia and to a lesser extent China of pushing out fictitious narratives on Covid, generally in a bid to sow doubts about the intentions and competence of Western governments.
Blinken also deplored the charge of “fake news” to harass journalists and voiced alarm that 16 journalists in the Western Hemisphere have been killed already in 2022.
“No region in the world is more dangerous for journalists,” he said.
“Crimes like these persist in no small part because the people who order them and carry them out are so rarely held accountable.”