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Letter to Christopher Way, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation - After Reports Of Disinformation Targeting Florida Latino Voters, Mucarsel-Powell And Castro Send Letter Requesting FBI Investigation

Letter

Date: Sept. 23, 2020
Location: Washington, DC

Dear Director Wray,

We write to request an immediate investigation into the origins of disinformation campaigns and deceptive claims targeting Latino voters in South Florida.

As we rapidly approach election day, Latino circles in South Florida have witnessed a surge in posts containing false or misleading information on social media. These posts are often politically charged and contain far-right conspiracy theories relating to "QAnon" or other fringe ideologies designed to manipulate Latino voters. Constituents in South Florida frequently comment that these misleading posts are especially prominent on Facebook and its owned entities, including WhatsApp and Instagram, as well as other outlets, like Twitter.

While disinformation on social media is, itself, problematic, even more concerning is the fact that disinformation originating on social media is now shaping and pervading more traditional media outlets in South Florida. On August 22, 2020, for example, South Florida station Radio Caracol played 16 minutes of programming containing an anti-Black and anti-Semitic rant that claimed a victory by candidate Joe Biden would mean that the U.S. would fall into a dictatorship led by "Jews and Blacks." The program further claimed that candidate Biden is leading a political revolution "directed by racial minorities, atheists and anti-Christians" and supports killing newborn babies. In another instance, El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language sister publication of the Miami Herald, included an insert on September 11 that claimed American Jews support "thieves and arsonists" and equated Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis.

It is common knowledge that the Russian government interfered in our 2016 elections through hacking and social media influence campaigns. Florida, in particular, was a target of Russian interference in 2016 where the election systems of two state counties were breached. On Facebook and other social media sites, Russian actors organized pro-Trump rallies in South Florida in an attempt to build support for then-candidate Trump and influence voters against candidate Clinton. But these attacks are not relegated to 2016 -- the FBI has recognized, as has the intelligence community at-large, that malign Russian actors are working to interfere with our 2020 elections, along with other hostile foreign nations.

The Latino voting population continues to grow and currently represents approximately 10% of the eligible vote nationally, and nearly 20% of the eligible voters in Florida. As the FBI works to secure our elections, we urge you to keep the Latino community in mind and consider efforts of foreign actors to spread disinformation and sow doubt in our election systems among Latinos, especially in South Florida. Moreover, we request an immediate investigation into the origin of the surge of disinformation on social media among Latino communities and their ties to coordinated efforts from foreign actors. Finally, we request a briefing regarding these troubling patterns, the FBI's response to preventing further disinformation prior to election, and their connection to any foreign interference campaign.

Due to the sensitive nature of this topic, please provide your responses to this letter and availability to conduct a briefing by October 7, 2020. Thank you for your consideration of this matter.


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