LatinNews Daily - 16 February 2022

BRAZIL: Electoral authorities sign agreement to tackle fake news

On 15 February, Brazil’s supreme electoral court (TSE), the country’s highest electoral authority, announced that it had signed agreements with a number of online platforms, including Google, Twitter, and Facebook, to combat fake news and misinformation in the run-up to Brazil’s October general election.  

Analysis:

The potential of fake news to influence or disrupt the electoral process is a real concern in Brazil, where the misuse of WhatsApp to mass message disinformation in the 2018 general election is still being investigated. The scenario is more complex and worrisome this year – amongst other things, the TSE is particularly concerned with the role that encrypted messaging app Telegram might play. Telegram is known to host threads of misinformation and conspiracy theories and has so far been unresponsive to Brazilian authorities’ attempts to engage with it. 

  • The TSE has signed individual memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Facebook (which also controls Instagram), WhatsApp, Twitter, Google, TikTok, and video-sharing app Kwai. Each MoU establishes how the platform in question can use its tools to limit the spread of fake news. The platforms will also help promote reliable information on the election to users. 
  • “We are concerned and committed to preserving an environment for free, broad, and robust debates, but which preserves certain minimum standards of legality and civility. We are therefore committed to fighting hatred, the online spread of criminal behaviour, and conspiracy theories which attack democracy,” the outgoing TSE president, Justice Luís Roberto Barroso, said during the online event marking the signature of the MoUs yesterday. 
  • An example of how fast fake news spreads came just yesterday, when CNN Brasil had to publish an article debunking a post circulating online and attributed to CNN, which claimed that President Jair Bolsonaro had averted a “third world war” between Russia and Ukraine. Bolsonaro travelled to Russia yesterday and is due to meet President Vladimir Putin today (16 February). 

Looking Ahead: With efforts by mainstream social media platforms to crack down on misinformation, conspiracy theorists and groups behind fake news campaigns – as well as President Bolsonaro – have migrated to new channels, such as Telegram or far-right platforms like Gettr, further complicating the authorities’ efforts to take measures against misinformation. 

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