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Voter Misinformation, Broward County’s New Police Review Board, UM Facial Recognition Controversy

Miami Herald
Protesters stand off with Fort Lauderdale police as tear gas was fired in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Sunday, May 31, 2020. BSO was called in for backup.

Broward County will have a police review board, will it create change? Plus, the impact of misinformation on elections and the University of Miami is a new battleground over facial recognition.

On this Tuesday, Oct. 27, episode of Sundial:

Voter Misinformation

The spread of misinformation about both presidential candidates is making its way to voters through different channels.

In Florida, there have been reports of voter intimidation and misinformation through email and unverified stories that have been spread on Twitter, WhatsApp and Facebook.

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It’s a phenomenon that’s certainly not new to this election, a recent Miami Herald investigation found the Trump campaign in 2016 directly targeted Black voters in Miami-Dade with false stories about Hillary Clinton.

“It’s not a new strategy, but it’s one that can have effectiveness if the information is not out there to correct that,” said Dan Smith, a political science professor at the University of Florida.

We spoke with Smith about how misinformation could be impacting Florida, one of the critical swing states this election.

Voter Misinformation

Broward County’s New Police Review Board

Broward County commissioners unanimously approved the creation of a police and criminal justice review board last week. However, the initiative did not pass without pushback from local politicians.

The 24-member board is intended to hold law enforcement accountable by offering policy recommendations within the sheriff's department and local law enforcement agencies throughout the county.

“What it can do is offer the community an outlet when misconduct happens. I think the current process does not work — this internal review, which is not transparent, and community involvement is absent from,” says Dwight Bullard, one of the members of the new board, as well as the political director of the New Florida Majority.

We spoke with Bullard about the board’s power to offer recommendations and limits in that due to preexisting laws it doesn’t have any power to enforce.

Broward County’s New Police Review Board

UM Facial Recognition Controversy

Students and workers at the University of Miami are accusing the campus police department of using facial recognition to identify student protesters.

The university has denied those allegations. But it hasn’t stopped it from becoming the latest battleground over the use of this controversial technology.

Members of the university’s community staged a masked "die-in" protest after the school decided to reopen for in-person classes in August.

University of Miami die in protest UMESA provided.jpeg
Provided by UMESA
University of Miami students and employees hold a "die-in" at the Coral Gables campus on Sept. 4, 2020. Demonstrators were protesting subcontracted employees' working conditions, among other grievances.

A few weeks later, some of the student protesters were called in for a meeting with university officials that left them wondering how they were identified.

“That was the question we asked in that meeting and eventually what we learned was that — what we heard from the dean was that facial recognition software was used to identify us, whether he misspoke or not I’m not sure. But then, he went on to share a story of a case of misidentification of a student,” said Mars Fernandez, a graduate student and research assistant at UM, who was at the protest and is one of the students who was identified.

We spoke with Fernandez and David Uberti, a cybersecurity reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who has been following the story.

Sundial also reached out to the university and invited the dean of students to join the program. Instead, they provided the following statement:

"At the University of Miami, we balance our need to protect the safety of our students with our students’ right to privacy. The University does not employ facial recognition technology in its security measures.

As part of our efforts to ensure the health and safety of our community, especially during this pandemic, university administrators met with students who failed to follow the appropriate process when organizing an in-person event."

UM Facial Recognition Controversy
University of Miami campus

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.
Alejandra Marquez Janse is a fall intern at WLRN.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.