Brazil has experienced a fake news war during the campaign for the presidential elections in October, a report from the newspaper A Folha de Sao Paulo revealed on Thursday.
The smear campaign cost 12 million Reais (around U$D 3,2 Million) and was carried out and financed by companies related to, or openly supporting far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro. The case is commonly known as "Bolsonaro Caixa 2" case.
Different companies supporting the candidacy of the Social Liberal Party (PSL) led by Jair Bolsonaro purchased a WhatsApp service called "Disparo Masivo" (Massive Shot), in order to send multiple messages aiming to slander the Workers Party (PT) and its candidates Fernando Haddad and Manuela D'Avila.
"More than the result of the elections, what is at stake is the survival of the democratic process," wrote the PT on a statement on the matter.
Brazil's electoral justice bans the usage of these services as it represents undeclared financing. The legal team of the "O povo feliz de novo" (people happy again), in which the PT is apart of, filed on Thursday the request for an investigation in the Electoral Supreme Court (TSE). As well, lawmakers have asked the Military Police (PM) to research into the smear campaigns.
By buying the Massive Shot services, the companies incurred three different electoral crimes: "donation by a legal entity, use of false profiles for electoral propaganda, and irregular purchase of user registrations," according to the PT LULA website.
The Brazilian electoral law specifies that "voting is also void when it is vitiated by falsehood, fraud, coercion," or when there is an abuse of political or economic power.
According to the research by A Folha de Sao Paulo, there are at least four companies linked: Havan, Quick Mobile Desenvolvimento e Serviços, Yacows Desenvolvimento de Software, Croc Service Soluções de Informática and SMSMarket Soluções Inteligentes.
"The criminal methods of lawmaker Jair Bolsonaro are intolerable in a democracy. Brazilian institutions have an obligation to act in defense of the smoothness of the electoral process. Social networks can not passively watch its use to spread lies and offenses, becoming accomplices of the manipulation of millions of users," stated the PT.
Furthermore, it was announced late Thursday that the Whatsapp fraud utilized by the Bolsonaro campaign influenced the outcome of the election. Datafolha director Mauro Paulino confirmed on his Twitter account that, "Electoral Research changed the outcome of the final results; when comparing the data images from Whatsapp the night before the first round of the election, the phenomenon is clearly shown."