In a series of reports released since October last year, Brazil’s Folha newspaper revealed the hiring of marketing companies during the election campaign, to massively send political messages, fraudulently using the identification number of seniors citizens.
A report, in particular, showed that business supporters of then-candidate and current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro funded the mass diffusion of messages against leftist Workers Party’s candidate Fernando Haddad who was then defeated but also fined by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) for wrongly boosting content unfavorable to his then contender.
WhatsApp's executive condemned the platform’s public groups distributing political content.
“We see these groups as hyper tabloids, where people want to spread a message to an audience and usually broadcast more controversial and problematic content,” he said. “Our recommendation is: don’t go into these big groups with people you don’t know, get out of these groups and report them.”
The Facebook-owned app’s representant said the platform discourages “using groups as broadcast lists” for content, as with many groups of political supporters, adding that "Whatsapp was created to house organic conversations between family members and friends.”
Supple also acknowledged the application’s influence on electoral processes. “We know elections can be won or lost on WhatsApp,” he said.
The app’s executives already expected that the 2018 Brazilian elections would be the scene of disinformation campaigns. “We always knew that the Brazilian election would be a challenge. It was a very polarized election and the conditions were ideal for the spread of false information, “ he added.
Finally, he said his company has been taking a series of measures to block accounts that violate its rules by sharing automated and viral messages. Since January when the number of forwarding messages was limited to five, the total number of forwarding dropped by 25 percent. Supple said the company banned two million accounts by month.
Launched in 2009, WhatsApp became quickly very popular in Brazil with more than 120 million people using it. However, it has also become an easy and open area for false and unverified information.