Speed Reads


John Oliver tackles viral misinformation in immigrant communities, but also from his 'business daddy' AT&T

The main story on Sunday's Last Week Tonight was about online misinformation, specifically "misinformation that spreads amid immigrant diaspora communities," John Oliver said. Recent leaked Facebook data show that "while more than 90 percent of Facebook's monthly users are outside the U.S. and Canada, when it comes to the hours the company spends on monitoring misinformation, last year only 13 percent were spent on content from outside the U.S."

"We clearly haven't remotely figured out what to do with English language misinformation yet, as proven by the fact that when I saw the words 'horse dewormer' or the letter Q, you know exactly what I'm referring to," Oliver said. "But while I know it is hard to imagine that this situation could be worse, when it comes to non-English-language misinformation, it honestly is."

Oliver showed examples of vaccine misinformation in California Latino communities, socialism agitprop among Florida's Cuban-Americans, and introduced the Vietnamese-American Alex Jones. "And as bad as Facebook and YouTube are — and they are screamingly, screamingly bad — at least in theory they can be monitored," he said. "But there is another way misinformation spreads that's actually invisible to most people."

Misinformation posts on WhatsApp, WeChat, and other diaspora-specific private-messaging apps are "often being passed around by trusted friends and family members, lending them an aura of legitimacy, and it can be truly exasperating for younger people to see just how susceptible their relatives are to this bulls--t," Oliver said. "If you are a member of one of these diaspora communities, you may need to prepare yourself for more difficult conversations with your least-favorite uncles. Although there is one tiny way that we may be able to help you here." 

Oliver did also tackle a slice of English-language misinformation Sunday night — specifically One America News and, according to Reuters, its chief patron, AT&T. Notably, "AT&T is still technically our 'business daddy,' making OAN our 'business step-sibling,' and not in a hot way," he joked. "Look, AT&T, I know our relationship is a little awkward, especially since you're trying to spin this business baby off in your deal with Discovery, but while we are still technically related, let me just say this: You're a terrible company. You do bad things and you make the world worse. Please don't bother keeping in touch once the merger's complete — although that really should not be a problem for you. You're AT&T, it's not like your messages will go through anyway."