Explaining Brazil #185: Brazil’s Telegram problem

Messaging app Telegram has been a thorn in the side of Brazil's electoral courts. But authorities are struggling to come up with ways to curb misinformation

Four years ago, Brazil’s electoral courts showed just how unprepared they were to deal with misinformation online, often playing catch-up to campaigns’ transgressions. In 2018, Meta’s WhatsApp Messenger was a key channel for misinformation in Brazil. The bad guy this time around, authorities say, is Telegram.

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  • André Spigariol covers Brazilian foreign policy, politics, and economics. He has been published by several media outlets in Latin America, including Crusoé, Spotniks, Congresso em Foco, La Tercera, CNN Chile, Radio Cooperativa, among others.
  • Benedict Nicholson is the head of research and editorial at NewsWhip, a media monitoring company. 

This episode used music from Uppbeat. License codes: T4R7G5BFZKQTIMKB, UQIAQSFBBBSEGEKG, SENAGCYDZHCLJ5GW.

Background reading:

  • Exclusive data from media monitoring company NewsWhip shows that stories related to either of the frontrunners in the presidential race (former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and President Jair Bolsonaro) track way more than those about any other contender. 
  • Brazil’s electoral authorities believe Dubai-based messaging app Telegram is one of the greatest threats to the country’s upcoming elections. And they have called for it to be banned in Brazil.
  • But Twitter also faced heat. Prosecutors have stepped in, forcing the platform to enable misinformation reporting tools in Brazil.
  • Initially controversial, the Supreme Court’s probe into the production and spreading of disinformation online has resulted in several arrests and has set its sights on President Bolsonaro and his politician sons.
  • In 2018, supporters of Jair Bolsonaro delivered an onslaught of daily misinformation straight to millions of Brazilians’ mobile phones. The strategy was effective, wrote Fundação Getulio Vargas analyst Luca Belli, because WhatsApp is an essential communication tool in Brazil

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