Facebook’s WhatsApp flooded with fake news in Brazil election
Two-thirds of Brazil’s voters use WhatsApp, a messaging service owned by Facebook that is often the primary means of communication. And, in the run-up to the extremely polarizing October 28 election between right-winger Jair Bolsonaro and leftist Fernando Haddad, it has become a tool for legitimate campaign information, as well as viral fake news pieces and conspiracy theories. Unlike other platforms where groups and posts are often public or at least have some kind of oversight, WhatsApp uses end-to-end encryption that allows text, photos, and videos to be shared away from the eyes of monitors. Viral rumors have included stories suggesting leftist Haddad to be a communist seeking to turn Brazil into another Cuba, to spread homosexuality, and rig voting machines. Other rumors claim that the stabbing attack against Bolsonaro last month was staged. Brazil’s electoral court has opened an investigation on possible misuses of the system by the Bolsonaro campaign, in what has become labeled “WhatsAppgate,” a scandal that some Haddad supporters argue should disqualify Bolsonaro. Many pundits are comparing the election to the 2016 US election in the way that the polarized campaigns are shaping Brazilian society and politics.