The Horrific WhatsApp Rumor Mill Fueling Brooklyn’s COVID Backlash

In the hundreds-strong WhatsApp group chats used by many members of Brooklyn’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, fake news has become a contagion unto itself.



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“MUST WATCH DR USES VAPE TO SHOW MASKS DON’T WORK,” blared one video recently forwarded in the discussion thread of a prominent Hasidic family based in the neighborhood of Borough Park, where coronavirus rates have spiked in recent weeks.

“BREAKING Jewish journalist Jacob Kornbluh was just found dead by the NYPD in his apartment in Brooklyn. Sources say it might be suicide,” read a false update another community insider relayed from a popular chat group on Monday, referring to the Jewish Insider reporter assaulted during a demonstration against new restrictions aimed at the outbreak there.



graphical user interface, text, application, chat or text message: WhatsApp


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WhatsApp

Kornbluh is very much alive, and declined to comment on the message besides calling it “stupid” and “unfortunate.” The source of the message, like several The Daily Beast consulted for this article, requested anonymity out of fear of getting targeted themselves.

Another image asserted in a mix of English, Hebrew, and Yiddish that unnamed religious authorities had issued a prohibition against testing for COVID-19.



graphical user interface, text, application, email: WhatsApp


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WhatsApp

In a community where the most devout may spurn television and avoid the internet, WhatsApp has long supplanted some local politicians and newspapers as the chief source of information. But experts and insiders say the platform is especially popular among the younger Hasidic men who have erupted in angry and even violent protests in recent days against new restrictions geared at spiking infection rates in their New York neighborhoods.

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“It is the dominant way that the community is now getting its news,” said Orthodox Jewish political consultant Menashe Shapiro. “It has also become a

Right-wing disinformation campaigns are targeting Latinos in Spanish Facebook and WhatsApp groups



Mark Zuckerberg wearing a suit and tie: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images


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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

  • Largely right-wing campaigns are spreading misinformation regarding democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris online, per a report in MIT Technology Review.
  • Spanish-language Facebook and WhatsApp group users have reported seeing messages like “Biden = Socialism” and that Kamala Harris supports abortions “minutes before birth,” both of which are untrue. 
  • Joe Biden’s success among Latino voters in swing states greatly impacts his chance of winning the election.
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Latinos — a voting bloc that could decide the 2020 election — are getting hit with false information on Spanish-language Facebook and WhatsApp groups.

Largely right-wing disinformation campaigns, or ads that spread false or exaggerated information, are targeting Hispanic-Americans online, the MIT Technology Review Reported. Users reported seeing repetitive messaging of Kamala Harris supporting abortion “up to minutes before birth,” which she has never said according to fact-check site Snopes.

One Facebook group “Cubanos por Donald Trump” posted a photo of democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in Miami’s Little Haiti Cultural Center claiming he “kneels before foreign leaders,” despite not in Haiti or meeting a Haitian leader in the picture, MIT reported.

The publication also reported that two separate Republican ads have spread messages like “Real Catholics can’t be Democrats” and “Biden = Socialism” online. 

Gaining Latino voters is crucial for Joe Biden, particularly in three battleground states, Florida, Arizona, and Texas, where they comprise 20%, 24%, and 30% of the voting population, respectively. Last month, polls showed Biden struggling to appeal to Latino voters in Florida, and the Associated Press reported his team acknowledged he may not get the same share of the vote as Hillary Clinton did in 2016. 

At the same