Published: Mon, October 22, 2018
Science | By Michele Flores

Leftist's party urges authorities to act on WhatsApp election

Leftist's party urges authorities to act on WhatsApp election

For its part, a movement called United Women against Bolsonaro said that they are united 'because a candidate for the presidency of the country, with a discourse based on hatred, intolerance, authoritarianism and backwardness, threatens our conquests and our already hard existence'.

One of Brazil's top newspapers on Thursday claimed Brazilian entrepreneurs were bankrolling a multimillion-dollar campaign created to boost Jair Bolsonaro by inundating WhatsApp users with messages undermining his leftist rival Fernando Haddad.

WhatsApp is among the most preferred messaging and social media apps in Brazil, which is home to roughly 120 million users.

Haddad, who became the candidate for the left-leaning Workers' Party after former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was banned because of a corruption conviction, alleged that hundreds of thousands of fake messages were already sent out in support of the far-right hopeful.

Later on Friday, Brazil's top electoral court TSE approved opening a probe into the case. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter are easier to police, WhatsApp users exchange information directly over an encrypted network.

The day before, WhatsApp said it had banned hundreds of thousands of accounts during the election period, with spam detection technology spotting accounts engaged in automated "bot" behaviour.

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The leading presidential candidate's son, Senator-elect Flavio Bolsonaro, revealed he had been blocked from using the service, demanding an explanation from the company.

"The persecution knows no limits!" He called it "defamatory" and said the contracts were illegal campaign financing requiring action from electoral authorities.

It remains unclear whether the accusations have had any bearing on opinion polls.

WhatsApp confirmed that it had blocked Flavio Bolsonaro for "spam behavior" and reasons unconnected to the Folha report. Several political parties, including Haddad's Workers' Party, are jointly requesting that Bolsonaro be declared ineligible for 8 years for abuse of economic power and misuse of digital communication.

The WhatsApp allegations have energized Haddad, who said his party has witnesses saying Bolsonaro asked business leaders for cash to pay for the bulk messaging, which he described as soliciting undeclared campaign contributions.

PT allies said they would file a complaint with electoral courts.

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