IntelBrief: Brazil braces for its own ‘big lie’ as misinformation looms large in upcoming election

Intelbrief / IntelBrief: Brazil braces for its own ‘big lie’ as misinformation looms large in upcoming election

AP Photo/Eraldo Peres

Bottom line in front

  • As Brazilians prepare to head to the polls soon to vote in their country’s first round of elections, fake news, disinformation and misinformation (MDM) are rampant, including baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.
  • Bolsonaro emulated Trump in suggesting that elections were rigged, electronic voting machines were unreliable and polls showing his opponent in the lead were falsified and could not be trusted.
  • There are growing fears that the situation in Brazil is increasingly mirroring the aftermath of the 2020 US presidential election and prefiguring the violence perpetrated by Trump supporters during the January 6 insurgency.
  • Bolsonaro has vowed to “wage war” and urged his supporters to do the same if he does not triumph in the election.

As Brazilians prepare to head to the polls soon to vote in their country’s first round of elections, fake news, disinformation and misinformation (MDM) are rampant, including baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who is running for re-election, appears to be taking a page from former US President Donald Trump’s playbook by laying the groundwork for a stolen election and disputed results, should he lose . A similar phenomenon occurred during the 2018 Brazilian elections, when MDM proliferated on social media, including WhatsApp, where disinformation providers spread lies on hundreds of thousands of WhatsApp phone numbers. These included false narratives regarding gender identity, LGBT issues, and other hot social topics. Election officials responded by banning the use of mass messaging for political purposes and threatened to disqualify any candidate who violated the new regulations.

With the upcoming elections approaching, where Brazilian voters will head to the polls to elect a president, 27 state governors and representatives at the state and federal levels, false election narratives have dominated suggesting that Brazil could soon to have to wrestle with his own version of the ‘big lie’, the lie that Trump won the 2020 election. Incredibly, Trump continues to peddle this lie, as do many of his supporters, including lawmakers and others elected in the United States. In Brazil, Bolsonaro emulated Trump in suggesting that elections were rigged, electronic voting machines were prone to fraud, and polls showing his opponent in the lead were falsified and could not be trusted. Bolsonaro, who was advised by former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, has also emulated Trump’s policies and political style, dismissing the seriousness of the COVID-19 pandemic and launching personal attacks on his political rivals. , calling them “thieves” and making baseless accusations. on corruption and bribery. Like Trump, Bolsonaro has also downplayed the threat of climate change, accelerating deforestation in the Amazon. Additionally, Bolsonaro has captured the imagination and political momentum of many Brazilian evangelicals, as he and his allies work to turn fast-growing evangelical churches into the foundation of his base. Capitalizing on deeply contentious issues, such as abortion, and invoking religious language in his speeches, Bolsonaro has courted many evangelical leaders, as Trump has done in the United States. Influential ministers called on their followers to attend protests against democratic institutions and spread false information, such as rumors that Bolsonaro’s opponent was closing Christian churches. With the January 6, 2021 deluge of religious imagery, the Capitol insurgency in the United States still fresh in memory, the role these influential leaders and their base play in the aftermath of the election – and potentially disputed results – could be significant.

There are growing concerns about the consequences of the election should Bolsonaro lose to former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, fearing that Brazil could be engulfed in violence similar to that seen in the United States. There have already been numerous documented cases of violence against polling and electoral officials. A Brazilian Supreme Court judge has warned of the prospects of even more political violence, as a rise in gun ownership has led many to fear a possible escalation in violent protests. In a letter to US President Joseph Biden, 39 lawmakers, including Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), wrote: “President Bolsonaro’s reckless and dangerous rhetoric on voter fraud raises serious concerns that he could potentially hamper a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.” The letter goes on to say, “Having personally experienced the horrors of the January 6 uprising, we know its consequences only too well.

While social media companies have made modest improvements in tackling misinformation ahead of the election, overall the results have been disappointing. MDM continues to plague YouTube, Telegram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter, while being widely shared on more fringe platforms such as Gettr and PatriaBook. On Telegram, far-right members are openly calling for a military coup following Bolsonaro’s defeat. Reinforcing these threats, Bolsonaro himself has vowed to “wage war” and urged his supporters to do the same if he does not triumph in the election. The prospect of a military coup conjures up painful memories of Brazil’s military dictatorship, which ruled the country between 1964 and 1985. Brazil may soon be on the verge of facing the biggest test for its democracy since nearly four decades as its institutions brace for a potential torrent of misinformation and political violence. Ironically, the United States, historically known for exporting democracy, is now associated with crafting the playbook of dictators and strongmen to be used to sow doubt in democratic elections, while simultaneously offering leaders a blueprint. authoritarians to seize power by force.

Comments are closed.