The Superior Electoral Court (TSE) took another important step in its partnership with WhatsApp, controlled by Meta (formerly Facebook), to combat disinformation in the 2022 Elections. The Court intends to improve a tool, which has already been used in the municipal election of 2020, to combat so-called “mass shooting” — automated sending of political propaganda to thousands of contacts at the same time.
After being used for the mass dissemination of fake news and political advertisements in the 2018 elections, WhatsApp partnered with the TSE to fight rumors about candidates and parties contesting the election.
TSE will ask WhatsApp to suspend accounts
Now, that partnership results in an offensive against mass shooting. Users who receive suspicious messages during the upcoming elections can report them by filling out a form on the TSE page. If the message is part of an illegal campaign launch, the Court will ask WhatsApp to delete the account.
Those responsible for the account can have their profiles completely banned from the application — if the shooting is linked to any campaign, the TSE can apply sanctions and even cancel the ticket related to the illegal service.
In 2018, there was a complaint against the ticket of current President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and his deputy, Hamilton Mourão (PRTB), for mass shootings. The case was judged in 2021 by the TSE, which did not cancel the president’s term. But Minister Alexandre de Moraes, who will assume the presidency of the TSE at the time of the 2022 Elections, promised to punish anyone who sends automated WhatsApp messages with jail.
WhatsApp told the Estadão/Broadcast that does not control content, that is, it is not up to the platform to moderate messages and ban users based on what they send. But the company wants to prevent automated submission, as it did in 2018.
For Dario Durigan, WhatsApp’s head of public policy in Brazil, the slates who hire mass shootings of WhatsApp are bad for democracy and harm other political campaigns, in addition to harming themselves. “Any user can report it to the TSE. This strengthens a message that I have been passing on to the political world: don’t hire mass shooting, don’t do political marketing on WhatsApp”, he commented.
This Thursday (27), the minister and president of the TSE, Luís Roberto Barroso, met with the head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart, to discuss the improvement of the channel for reporting mass shootings by messenger, among other fronts in the fight. to fake news. In the 2020 municipal elections, the page used by the TSE accepted almost 5 thousand complaints, and banned just over 1 thousand accounts from the platform.
During the conversation with Barroso, Cathcart assured that, until the end of the elections, WhatsApp would not have significant changes that could impact its functioning.
Other partnership initiatives include the creation of a TSE chatbot on WhatsApp for voters to receive communications and ask questions about the electoral system, and the training of employees of the Regional Electoral Courts (TREs) on combating fake news.
Will Cathcart acknowledged the importance of partnering with the TSE and reaffirmed that there will be no “significant changes” to the app until the end of the elections:
“We strongly believe in protecting the privacy of people’s conversations, and we believe in thoughtful changes such as forwarding limits that discourage misinformation while respecting privacy. We will maintain the effective measures we have taken and we are not planning any significant changes to WhatsApp in Brazil during the election period.”
With information: Estadão, TSE