Sergio Moro, the judge overseeing the extensive corruption probe Operation Car Wash, did not tell voters in 2017 that blank votes were the only way to stop political corruption. Lula’s planned trip to Ethiopia, a country that does not extradite to Brazil, was for the African Union Summit in January – not to escape jail. Marielle Franco was not married to one of the leaders of drug trafficking gangs.
All of these online rumors transformed from whispers into roars before they were dissected. Globally, fake news gains more traction on social networks than accurate information; one study from MIT found that false stories receive 70 percent more shares on Twitter than real ones. And Brazil is a particularly fertile breeding ground for the spread of fake news, as it is among the biggest social media markets in the world. With 122 million Facebook users, Brazilians are the social network’s third-biggest user group, and are also an important market for Twitter and Instagram.
But the biggest problem – and one that risks menacing Brazil’s 2018 elections – is that rumors often originate on encrypted communication channels.