Date of Graduation
Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources
Lane Department of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering
How has the Latino community been targeted by digital propaganda during the 2018 midterm elections in the US? How might this affect their involvement in and around the election? This thesis starts to answer these questions through a data analysis on two of the most prominent and popular social media platforms for political discussion: Twitter and Reddit. This study analyzed people’s posting patterns over time, the digital traces of the individuals pushing the majority and most popular content, and Latino candidates’ interaction on Twitter. This research provides evidence that on Twitter there are two main actors discussing Latinos and politics: “Pro-Latino NGOs” and “Pro-Trump one hit wonders.” The Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) discussed political events sporadically and focused more on helping Latinos who had been long-term in the US to obtain better work opportunities, as well as registering to vote. The one-hit wonders were famous people who posted one tweet highlighting the positive things US president Trump has done with Latinos and received massive attention from audiences (in terms of retweets and likes). On Reddit, it was identified that there were a mix of highly active people: (1) individuals posting about president Trump being racist against Latinos; (2) people who simply posted news stories about Latinos and politics; and (3) political trolls focused on mobilizing people to vote Republican (pro-Trump) in the elections. The political trolls shared stories of how Latinos across the US were also supporting Trump and how Trump’s policies against illegal immigrants from Latin America was beneficial to the US. These trolls also appeared to coordinate with high profile people to gain mass visibility outside Reddit for their cause.
As the Latino voters, the second largest population group in the US, prepared to head to the polls, humanizing the effects of disinformation against Latinos becomes crucial. Most political actors are not mentioning or organizing Latinos on Twitter. The political organizations, specifically NGOs, that do focus on Latinos rarely discuss politics and focus more on helping Latinos to thrive in the US. Hence, this research is currently highlighting that there is a gap between Latinos and the US midterm elections. It appears that it is more the extremist voices, such as political trolls, who are engaging Latinos for months before the election. In the data we analyzed, there currently does not appear to be any group that is actively mobilizing Latinos to vote without falling into extreme behaviors. We finish by discussing recommendations to counterattack and diminish the effects of disinformation targeting the Latino community and increase their involvement in future US election by use of a civic tech by NGOs.
Shrestha, Manjul, "Midterm 2018 and targeting Latino community through misinformation and disinformation online" (2018). Graduate Theses, Dissertations, and Problem Reports. 3704.