With just over a week to go until the final round of Brazil’s Presidential election the left are hitting back against the tsunami of far right fake news emanating from Jair Bolsonaro’s campaign.
Bolsonaro’s support has surged in recent weeks as a result of a sophisticated social media campaign which, under the guidance of Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon, has bombarded the electorate with fake news, lies and slander all targeting the left’s candidates for President (Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party) and Vice President (Manuela D’Avila of the Communist Party of Brazil).
The Workers Party are calling for an investigation into the suspected illegal use of the social networking tool WhatsApp by Bolsonaro’s campaign. This follows revelations in the Folha de S Paulo on Thursday 18 October that companies are buying mass mailing packages against the Workers Party on WhatsApp to be blasted out in the final days of the campaign.
According to Folha de S Paulo each package of “mass shots” would cost around 12 millions reais and sends out hundreds of millions of messages. This practice, of private companies donating to their preferred candidate through services, undeclared, is prohibited by electoral law.
In a statement, the Workers Party said:
“The criminal methods of Deputy Jair Bolsonaro are intolerable in democracy. Brazilian institutions have an obligation to act in defense of the smoothness of the electoral process. The PT will take these serious denunciations to all levels in Brazil and in the world. More than the result of the elections, what is at stake is the survival of the democratic process. ”
Haddad added: “We are going to the electoral court to prevent Deputy Bolsonaro from violently assaulting democracy as he has done his whole life. Collusion with money to violate the will of the people is a crime. ”
Lula da Silva, Haddad and D’Avila all denounced Bolsonaro’s dirty campaign tactics on twitter.
“We will engage the Federal police and electoral justice to prevent Congressman Bolsonaro from violently assaulting democracy as he has done.”
“My opponent is using electoral crime to gain leverage. He who said he campaigns for the poorest was disproved today. He campaigns with the country’s richest, dirty money.”
“Mr Bolsoanro has created a real criminal organisation with entrepreneurs who, through Box 2, dirty money, are sponsoring the shooting of lies into Watsapp.”
“WHATSAPP can pretend it’s not with him or it can help. If you have commitment to values, you will take Providence and will try to avoid what happened in the last week of the first round.”
“According to Folha, the planning is that the same tsunami of lies occurs in the last week of the election. We’ll get to the perpetrators of this crime. We’re not going to let this end like this. They’re slanging me with dirty money.”
“What we want is the investigation of the crimes reported. The amount of resources and the number of entrepreneurs involved in this plot is very large. We have the information that 156 entrepreneurs are involved in this. People are going to be called on the stand. He left a trail and we’re going after it.”
From his official twitter account, Lula da Silva said: “the campaign by Mr. Jair Bolsonaro receives illegal and millionaire funding from large companies to keep an industry of lies in the social network WhatsApp.”
The left Vice Presidential candidate D’Avila added:
“Our democracy is in tatters. New York Times reports that 56% of the news about election circulating is lies. But the most serious is in Sao Paulo: contrary to the legislation this lie industry is paid by entrepreneurs.”
Brazil’s right wing Electoral Court – which in September ruled against Lula from standing in this Presidential election – has made a few tokenistic gestures against the surge of far right fake news including the launch of an official website to “debunk” social media posts.
Last week the Electoral Court ordered Facebook to remove links to 33 fake news stories targeting the left’s candidates – a move which has been ridiculed as being a complete drop in the ocean. In the words of Professor Pablo Ortellado of the University of Sao Paulo: “This is nothing. It’s irrelevant amid the lies and attacks in this election. There is very little correct information.” One of these posts, a video on Facebook, had already accumulated 3 million views before it was removed.