It’s nearly impossible to chase down all the disinformation scattered across the globe. It’s spread by former Trump aides, foreign governments and a Falun Gong-backed media empire determined to take down the Chinese government. Steve Bannon partnered with the exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui to plant bogus stories of hidden business dealings by the Biden family in China, which then went viral among the Chinese diaspora. Nguyen Dinh Thang, president of the civil society organization Boat People SOS, has noticed many Vietnamese-language Facebook pages, some with tens of thousands of followers, spreading falsehoods about the U.S. elections to Vietnamese nationals and immigrants.
The disinformation that reaches my mother from ethnic language platforms is often traced to Mr. Trump himself. My mother doesn’t get her news from conservative Korean YouTube channels or the messenger platform KakaoTalk. She hears it over the phone from friends, some of whom recently told her that hospitals have been inflating Covid-19 death numbers to qualify for more insurance money. She had no idea the president falsely claimed that during a rally in October.
If the global ubiquity of fake news is not addressed, it could continue to peel away minority community support that Democrats count on. Disinformation has been weaponized to poach on immigrant fears so that, like their white working-class counterparts, some Asian and Latino immigrants are voting against their economic interests. With tech giants refusing to provide serious oversight, fake news not only exploits their fears of socialism but provokes any latent anti-Black prejudices, warning that to “defund the police” would lead to anarchy.
Democrats and progressives must be surgical in their canvassing, and train many more bilingual volunteers to reach out to immigrant voters via social media and in-person, finding trusted messengers who take the time to build relationships with community leaders. Grassroots organizations like the Georgia-based Asian American Advocacy Fund, VietFactCheck and Asian Americans Against Trump have been committed to that labor.
Lastly, for progressives who come from immigrant families, it’s up to us. We must use our blood connections to counter these lie machines by engaging with our families and friends about, for instance, the crucial importance of the Georgia Senate elections or the detailed policies behind the “defund the police” movement that can help stop cops from killing Black people.
In November, Asian-Americans came out in record numbers and helped deliver swing states like Georgia to Mr. Biden. In Georgia’s Seventh District, which flipped from red to blue this election, 41 percent of the electorate were first-time voters as a result of grass-roots efforts and family outreach. I talked to one Korean-American woman who said she was flying to Atlanta to escort her mother, who had never voted before, to the polls.
My own mother now asks me about every story she hears. Granted, she also has other motives. “If I tell you what I hear,” she said, “then I know you’ll call me back.”
Cathy Park Hong (@cathyparkhong) is the author of “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning.”