Impact of Social Media on Brazilian Election 2018

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Brazilian general election, 2018 is in full swing in the country to elect the President, Vice President, and the National Congress.

Elections for state Governors and Vice Governors, state Legislative Assemblies and Federal District Legislative Chamber are be held at the same time. Rio de Janeiro congressman Jair Bolsonaro came first in the first round of the election on the 7th of October 2018 and the runoff is set to be on the 28th of this month between him and former São Paulo mayor Fernando Haddad.

But the Brazil elections is not what we’re worried about but the social media driving the campaign of the far-right frontrunner and the abuse faced by female journalists online. Because Brazil is Facebook’s third-largest market and more than half of their population uses Whatsapp, social media has become the new battleground in Brazil’s election.

Brazil’s far-right presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, who is described by some as “Donald Trump meets Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte”, has taken his political campaign has apparently turned the mainstream media into his useful enemies. Bolsonaro has made up for his relative absence on TV screens with a massive social media presence. He has 6.6 million Facebook followers.

Bolsonaro has also capitalized on the Facebook-owned app WhatsApp as a way to promote his agenda. And, the former São Paulo governor has been stagnant in the polls, ranking fourth while his competitors with less TV time come out ahead. We all know information spreads on social media like wildfire and the misinformation shared on the social media platforms has become the reason for the chaos occurring in Brazil at this time. On the other hand, because social media gives one anonymity, women journalists have been receiving rape threats and sexual assaults, the language of which is violent and disrespectful enough to be extremely disturbing.

In this year’s election, there is no better example than the rise of #EleNão (#NotHim). The movement has its roots in a Facebook group called “Women United Against Bolsonaro,” which gained 1 million members in less than two weeks after it kicked off at the end of August this year. But on September 13, the group was hacked by Bolsonaro supporters that changed the name to “Women United With Bolsonaro”. The rejection rates for Bolsonaro remain much higher and could play an important role in the anticipated runoff on October 28, when the female vote could be a determining factor.

Brazilian fact-checking organization Aos Fatos, which translates to “To The Facts”, transcribed, researched and published verifications on the comments of the candidates in the presidential election. In the past year alone, one of the few viral misinformation on Brazilian social media has included an anti-vaccination hoax about yellow fever and false instructions on when to vote.

Facebook, Google and Twitter have all announced measures to stop deceitful accounts and news during Brazil’s elections. To reduce false information’s reach, Facebook counts on denunciations from users and partnerships with third-party fact checkers certified by the Poynter Institute’s International Fact-Checking Network.

– Zoyena Ansari

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