• Live
    • Audio Only
  • google plus
  • facebook
  • twitter
  • Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), react after Bolsonaro wins the presidential race, in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 28, 2018.

    Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, far-right lawmaker and presidential candidate of the Social Liberal Party (PSL), react after Bolsonaro wins the presidential race, in Sao Paulo, Brazil October 28, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 8 October 2019

The app’s executives already expected that the 2018 Brazilian elections would be the scene of disinformation campaigns.

WhatsApp has admitted Tuesday for the first time that the 2018 Brazilian election saw massive political and often unreliable messaging through automated SMS systems provided by private companies.

RELATED: 

WhatsApp Warns Indian Political Parties Against Abuse of Platform Ahead of General Elections

“Last year’s Brazilian election massive messaging providers violated our terms of use in order to reach large numbers of people,” Ben Supple, WhatsApp’s global public policy manager said in a speech at the Gabo Festival held at the beginning of this month in Medellin, Colombia.

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.”

Asked if the use of the application for political campaigns violated its rules, he responded that “it does not violate the rules as long as all the terms of use [that prohibit automation and mass messaging] are respected. Everyone is subject to the same criteria, no matter if the user is a presidential candidate or a farmer from the countryside.”

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.

Comment
0
Comments
Post with no comments.