MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) — With Mexico’s 2024 presidential election less than a year away, political analysts and academics are warning of an election wave fake news and disinformation is making the rounds online, a trend they think is particularly worrying given that some of the untruths appear to have come from the ruling party – and the president himself.
Fake news has long been spread in the Mexican election campaign, and the current election cycle is no exception.
Since June, when Mexico’s ruling Morena partyAs the country’s main opposition parties began their internal processes to select their candidates for the 2024 race, the Associated Press’s Spanish-language fact-checking team found about 40 fake posts on social media platforms favoring or discrediting members of both political spectrum.
Political observers and academics are concerned that unfounded allegations are occasionally leveled against opposition figures President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador oneself.
“Obviously, the president was a factor in creating this type of misinformation, which is ultimately polarizing,” said Manuel Alejandro Guerrero, a professor of social and political science at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.
He points to a recent incident that Lopez Obrador and his supporters have blamed Xochitl Galveza suspected opposition presidential candidate who planned to end a number of his administration’s popular social programs if she won the presidency.
Galvez condemned the president’s statements as false and obtained a court order in early June guaranteeing her the right to comment and allowing her to respond in person at one of his daily morning press conferences. Not long after, she officially entered the presidential race as the candidate of a broad opposition coalition—the historically left-wing PRD, the conservative PAN, and the PRI that ruled Mexico for 70 years.
“Despite Xóchitl’s own denials, what we see here is a lie that’s been repeated time and time again, sometimes from circles very close to the president,” Guerrero said.
Morena did not respond to a request for comment on allegations of falsehoods about the opposition.
In recent months, the AP’s Spanish-language fact-checking team found several publications on being elected president.
The team found that most of the misleading content about Gálvez came from accounts associated with Morena or López Obrador. But AP also found several false publications circulating on the Internet against it former mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaumone of Morena’s main candidates for the presidency.
One of these publications falsely claimed that Sheinbaum was not born in Mexico but in Bulgaria, rendering her ineligible for candidacy.
Taking to her social media accounts, Sheinbaum urged people to say no to fake news. In a campaign video, she even publicly showed her birth certificate, proving that she was actually born in Mexico City.
In early June, a municipal election in the northern state of Coahuila was beset by false publications and a widespread disinformation campaign that discredited dozens of posts Mexico’s electoral agency, known as INE.
Among the falsehoods circulating on the internet was the claim that the markers given to voters to vote could easily be erased, allowing for re-voting, leading to voter fraud.
AP’s fact-checking team has previously refuted this claim, which has been circulated multiple times, including during the 2021 midterm elections, where the INE was repeatedly the target of fake news.
Karen Lomelí, who leads digital efforts at PAN, accused the government and ruling party of using a network of “bots” to spread lies about the opposition.
“It’s a strategy they’re pursuing with all the power of the government,” Lomelí said. “I think that will spread because we live in a very polarized country.”
For Guerrero and other academics, the avalanche of fake news and electoral disinformation will only get worse as the country enters another presidential race.
“The risk of disinformation in contexts of low democratic institutional strength, as is the case in Mexico and many other Latin American countries, is that it is impossible to reach an agreement between the different political groups,” Guerrero said. “There’s just too much noise.”