Spread of fake news in Brazil unprecedented, says OAS

The phenomenon has the international election observers concerned

Published in 25/10/2018 - 18:33 By Daniel Mello - São Paulo

Laura Chinchilla, head of the Organization of American States (OAS) mission of observers working in Brazil’s elections, today (Oct. 25) described the spread of fake news in the country as an “unprecedented” phenomenon. The incident has the specialists concerned, she said, further noting that a warning had been issued in the first round of vote.

“The phenomenon we see in Brazil may be the first of its kind, essentially because it’s different from other electoral campaigns in other countries,” said Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica.

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 Laura Chinchilla – Rovena Rosa / Agência Brasil

She met with presidential candidate Fernando Haddad, of the Workers’ Party (PT), and his running mate Manuela d’Ávila today in São Paulo, at the request of their coalition.

The group of observers consists of 48 specialists from 38 different countries. They will travel to the Federal District and 11 states across Brazil to monitor the run-off vote and subsequently draw up a report.

Allegations

Chinchilla said she received written allegations denouncing an alleged scheme financed by executives to disseminate anti-PT news on smartphone instant messaging application WhatsApp. She said she relaid the information to Brazilian electoral authorities and the police.

The mission head added she also plans to meet with Brazil’s Prosecutor-General Raquel Dodge to discuss the spread of fake news online. No date has been disclosed for the meeting.

Difficult control; hate speech

In Laura Chinchilla’s view, the use of WhasApp makes it difficult for authorities to curb the dissemination of falsehoods, as the app is a private and protected network.

“A private network like WhatsApp poses a number of complex issues, so it’s difficult to be brought under scrutiny by the authorities. It’s a network that gives people confidence, because it’s your closest acquaintances who share the news, and because it’s the most used one, with a reach never seen before,” she argued.

A solution, she said, would include raising awareness among Brazil’s electorate. “We will continue to reiterate the need for citizens to learn and work to distinguish what’s true from what’s not. A number of initiatives have been devised for that purpose by society, at universities and on the media.”

Laura Chinchilla went on to say that, in addition to fake news, mission members are worried over the use of speech inciting violence motivated by political disagreement. Nonetheless, in spite of isolated cases, she said, no irregularities have been registered thus far.

Translation: Fabrício Ferreira -  Edition: Lílian Beraldo / Augusto Queiroz

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