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The Wave of “Fake News” on Social Networks Represents the Brazilian Elections

Social networks and unofficial channels work as a platform to spread this news

A wave of fake news and conspiracy theories swept the social media of Brazilians in every election for more than five years. The flood of “fake news” ahead of Sunday’s presidential election returned with such force that it provoked harsh reactions from the judicial authorities.

They are a concern in Brazil, because the count must be tight and any vote can be considered a victory at the polls. Former leftist president Lula da Silva leads all polls, but by only 4.6 points on average, in cumulative polls, relative to the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, who usually ends up garnering more real support than he does. Given the outcome of previous investigations, this is why some analysts believe the victory may be due to a “end frame”.

That’s why “fake news” factories are running at full speed these days with the aim of trying to get as many votes as possible and, at the same time, take them away from the opponent. There are two big fake news circulating these days on Brazilian social networks.

On the other hand, Bolsonaro claims that Lula will close evangelical churches, something the left-wing candidate has denied on numerous occasions, alleging, in addition, that the freedom of worship that exists in Brazil today was expanded by the laws that were passed in the process. your government. The news, however, created a stupor in religious circles, and street discussions of the matter are common.

Letters denouncing the possibility of electoral fraud against Bolsonaro because the electronic voting system used in Brazil is unreliable, when in 25 years no one has been able to prove that the system works irregularly, also circulate with particular ferocity.

The same far-right leader has questioned electronic voting machines on dozens of occasions, even calling a press conference in 2021 to prove fraud in which, far from the evidence, he presented arguments close to the conspiracy.

Some of his followers are convinced that it is impossible for Bolsonaro to lose, so many analysts do not exclude the possibility of a scenario of some kind in Brazil similar to what happened in January 2021 in Washington, when the US Capitol was invaded. By Donald Trump followers who didn’t believe the billionaire had lost the election.

‘Fake news’ exploded in the 2018 presidential election, in which Bolsonaro was victorious, and most analysts in Brazil associate this fake news primarily with the far-right campaign.

Four years ago, news about an alleged “gay group” that then-left candidate Fernando Haddad might have been distributing in schools when he was Minister of Education, which included penis-shaped bottles for children, appeared on disinformation networks. . , something clearly wrong, but thousands believed without a second thought. The news spread through Bolsonaro’s unofficial media channels.

Culture Brothers

says Marlos Appius, journalist and audience analyst for the newspaper ‘O Estado de São Paulo’.

In fact, the sons of the far-right leader are under investigation by the Federal Police for allegedly creating a “hate council” through which false news is spread.

“However, with Deputy André Gapons, the digital ‘influencer’ who made a career out of exciting content on Facebook, as Lula’s campaign approaches, the distance has been reduced”, adds Appius.

The audience analyst notes that “in any case, it is seen that the material published by the polysnarians causes more damage”.

Apyus does not believe that all “fake news” is the same. “Technically speaking, lies are not always completely false, but deviations from the truth, almost always operating with an interpretation that seeks to agitate or provoke outrage in public opinion, even if the reported truth poses no real danger,” he says.

Yes, there are, in any case, fake news that practically turn into illusions. Lula’s campaign was forced to deny that the candidate is demonic after videos appeared on social media in which the progressive leader participated in religious ceremonies for people of African descent.

In turn, Bolsonaro was also accused of being a Satanist after leaking videos of him appearing at Masonic meetings, and even forced to defend himself against accusations of cannibalism.

A relevant part of the “fake news” is about religion. The Catholic cardinal even had to publicly deny being a communist and explain that he wears red because it is the color of clothes that cardinals wear.

The avalanche has reached that justice is taking more and more measures to face the problem. The judges of the Federal Supreme Court and the Electoral Court ruled a few days ago that the announcement of the elections will end on Saturday and that social networks must eliminate “fake news” in less than two hours, under the threat of heavy fines.

Nowadays, STF judges have demanded that Bolsonarism remove the news linking Lula to the repression of religious people in Nicaragua – based on his past ideological proximity to President Daniel Ortega – with the possibility of closing evangelical churches and of evangelical churches. of the Corona virus.

Some of these accusations are not from the official campaign media, but through parallel channels that “de facto” operate as campaign media.

The STF also demanded that Lula’s entourage, on the contrary, remove the news that links Bolsonaro’s children to a case of corruption and the president’s cannibalism.

“Just as social networks allow activism in authoritarian countries, they have been equally harmful in attacking democracy, showing the prejudices, homophobic and racist ideas that support ‘fake news’ and which, in the Brazilian case, were of fundamental importance. in Bolsonaro’s election in 2018,” says Humberto Mezza, a professor of political science at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.


WhatsApp is the main means of spreading fake news in a country where the mobile internet is widespread in all segments of the population and 79% of citizens say they receive news mainly through this app, according to a study claimed by the third legislature. years ago.

The social network Grupo Meta, which is also the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, was introduced after the 2018 elections, as limits on group participants or limits on the number of times the same message can be forwarded.

Then, part of Bolsonaro’s followers, at the instigation of the president himself, started using Telegram, a platform with looser controls, which the STF suspended the service last March, before the company reached an agreement with the electoral justice to combat disinformation.

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