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Florida Voters Face Election Misinformation

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Latino voters in Florida have been getting a lot of alarming messages on their phones, conspiracy theories about what will happen if Democrats and Joe Biden win the election. NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is in Miami and joins us with more. Good morning, Franco. You've been talking to voters there about this. Explain exactly what messages they're getting.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Well, you know, there are always targeted messages in campaigns, but these messages here have become a real concern. There is messaging from QAnon, the movement that claims President Trump is saving the world from pedophiles, and other messages that equate Black Lives Matter protesters with Nazis. It's not really clear where some of it is coming from or, frankly, who is behind it. But they're also targeting socialist and communist themes that really resonate with voters here because many of the residents, the voters, fled those kind of regimes in Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua. Most of the messages also, I'll just note, that have been spreading via things like WhatsApp, social media apps and Facebook, but there have also been reports of paid advertisements on Spanish-language media as well.

MARTIN: How are people reacting?

ORDOÑEZ: It's a big concern here. I met Kati Chiquito who was on her way to get a coffee at a Colombian bakery in Doral. She's originally from Venezuela. She told me very bluntly that it's all part of a political game.

KATI CHIQUITO: I have seen it, and, unfortunately, people doesn't make their own search. They just believe the lie that they saw on Facebook. Like, is it true?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, she said there that they just believe the lie that they see on Facebook as if it's true. She says activists are playing off of voters' insecurities. They know many people just take in information without checking the source and forward it to other friends, especially if it seems to confirm preconceived notions and fears.

MARTIN: So is that what is happening? I mean, is this working? Do people believe these messages?

ORDOÑEZ: You know, I'd say most people don't, but some do, and for others, it might just raise enough doubts to make a difference. Things are tight here. I also talked with Ricardo Dager in Doral. He told me he's seen friends for these kind of posts.

RICARDO DAGER: There is this whole campaign of misinformation. And I'm very surprised to see how it has actually taken hold on people that I know very well and that are very rational people to an extent.

ORDOÑEZ: He says people he's close with actually believe if Biden is elected that the United States will soon look more like Cuba or Venezuela.

MARTIN: So, obviously, Florida, a very important state in the upcoming election - every election but really especially this year. You said the race is close. I mean, how close? How much of a difference could this make?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, you know, like you note, the race is tightening. There's a lot at stake. A few thousand votes could really sway things here. Florida is the largest of the swing states with 29 of the 270 electoral votes required to win the presidency. I spoke to Frank Mora. He was a Defense Department official during the Obama administration. Now he's with the Latin American Center at Florida International University here.

FRANK MORA: For me, as someone who was born and raised here, although I lived a lot outside and came back, it's just very sad to see us sort of be engaged in this and people believing in this.

ORDOÑEZ: You know, when he spoke to me, he was very emotional, and he told me for so many people here in South Florida, the feelings about socialism and communism are just so raw. They're very dialed in to what is happening in Venezuela, for example. And the feeling is that you just can't take a chance to allow those kind of politics to creep into the American system. But he and others, they say it's just fearmongering.

MARTIN: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you for that, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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