House Dems Voice 'Grave and Urgent Concerns' Over Chilean Plebiscite Misinformation
"Technology corporations like yours have an obligation to ensure that their platforms do not serve to disseminate hate, lies, and disinformation," U.S. lawmakers told social media giants.
U.S. House Democrats on Friday shared their "grave and urgent concerns" to leading social media companies over right-wing misinformation about this weekend's Chilean constitutional plebiscite being shared on their platforms.
"Continued inaction could abet interference in this historic referendum."
In a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Parag Agrawal, and Shou Zi Chew--the respective CEOs of Facebook parent company Meta, Twitter, and TikTok--the lawmakers "strongly implore" the social media companies to "act with urgency to combat corrupt disinformation campaigns that undermine a fair and democratic process" in Chile.
"This Sunday, Chileans will decide whether to approve a new constitution or default to the existing version written by the Pinochet dictatorship's military junta," states the letter, which is signed by Reps. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Jesus "Chuy" Garcia, Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), and James McGovern (D-Mass).
The lawmakers were referring to the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who seized power in a 1973 coup supported by then-President Richard Nixon and successive administrations as well as U.S. business interests.
"In the context of such an important and sensitive democratic process, we believe that technology corporations like yours have an obligation to ensure that their platforms do not serve to disseminate hate, lies, and disinformation across the electorate," the letter continues. "Yet just this week Reuters reported that inaccurate information about Chile's new constitution is widespread."
\u201cAs a member of Congress and @HouseForeign, I am very concerned about the disinformation deployed by the \u201cRechazo\u201d campaign in Chile and @meta, @twitter and @tiktok_us\u2019 inadequate response. \n\nThese tactics undermine democracy. We need answers.\u201d— Rep. Andy Levin (@Rep. Andy Levin) 1662147345
As Common Dreamsnoted Wednesday, a far-right misinformation campaign--replete with lies that the new constitution would change Chile's flag, national anthem, and even the country's name--could imperil its approval.
The lawmakers' letter laments that "thousands of Twitter profiles regularly circulate patently false claims regarding the new constitution" in "an attempt to delegitimize and discredit" the proposed document.
"Even more troubling, these attacks often use hate speech to target women and Indigenous leaders," the Democrats noted.
"We urge you to act swiftly against the spread of disinformation," they added. "Continued inaction could abet interference in this historic referendum."
Thousands of Chileans took to the streets of the capital city of Santiago on Thursday evening in demonstrations for and against the new constitution, which if passed will enshrine human rights including free universal healthcare, higher education, reproductive freedom, and the rights of nature.
Chile's recently inaugurated leftist president, former student activist Gabriel Boric, supports a new constitution. Nearly four in five Chilean voters voted in favor of the constitutional re-write in a 2020 referendum.
Speaking in favor of the new constitution during a Thursday rally, Gustavo Gatica--who was blinded after being shot in the face during a 2019 Estallido social protest against economic inequality--said, "I approve of all the eyes we lost" during the struggle for Chilean democracy.