Brazil’s dirty campaign: a disinformation guide

Brazil’s dirty campaign: a disinformation guide


Brazil’s election campaign has been an orgy of mudslinging, social media attacks and outright lies so outlandish they’re comical at times.

Here’s a look from AFP’s fact-checking team at some of the best disinformation techniques — none of them particularly high-tech — being used in the online proxy wars between supporters of far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro and left-wing rival Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ahead of the country’s presidential election on 30th of October.

– quotes taken out of context –

One of the main methods of the disinformation campaign on social media is to cut out the context from video footage to make it appear that the candidates are saying something they didn’t say.

For example, a video of Bolsonaro supporters, including influential evangelical pastor Silas Malafaia, of Lula saying, “I must be lying,” was widely circulated on Wednesday. Politicians have to lie.”

The veteran left uttered those words the night before – but mimicked Bolsonaro as he said it.

“Bozo (his mocking nickname for the incumbent) is a compulsive liar,” said Lula, 76, in a podcast interview. “He literally says, ‘I have to lie.'”

Bolsonaro, 67, was also targeted with the tactic.

In one clip, he appears to be saying he will bring scandal-plagued ex-President Fernando Collor into his cabinet to “seize pensioners’ pensions”.

In reality, Bolsonaro spoke of a rumor swirling around the internet.

– Pink Menace –

Bolsonaro warns ex-President Lula (2003-2010) that he wants to “impose communism on Brazil” and often points to crises in other Latin American countries as examples of the dangers of left-wing rule.

Amid signs of a new “pink tide” emerging in the region – with leftists now in power in Argentina, Chile and Colombia, among others – the disinformation campaign has cast a wide, muckrakive net.

A viral post accused Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s leftist government of “sanctioning pedophilia” based on a measure that legalized marriage for minors over the age of 14.

But the measure was passed in 2021 under conservative ex-president Ivan Duque.

“Starving locals are attacking poultry and pig farmers in Argentina,” warns another apocalyptic message accompanying video of looting said to have taken place under leftist President Alberto Fernandez.

In reality, the images come from the Colombian city of Puerto Tejada during protests against Duque’s government last year.

Videos of violent protests in Chile in 2019 under conservative ex-president Sebastian Pinera have also been falsely portrayed as taking place under current President Gabriel Boric, who took office last March.

– Fake Polls –

Fake opinion polls that show a candidate by a large margin are another common tactic.

Sometimes the supposed surveys are completely fabricated. Other posts use editing software to change the numbers on TV news.

In fact, most real polls give Lula a small lead over Bolsonaro.

– “proof” of fraud –

Multiple allegations of fraud spread after the Oct. 2 first-round election, in which Lula received 48 percent of the vote to 43 percent for Bolsonaro.

According to a widely circulated list of cities, Lula is said to have had more votes than residents. But the numbers given are wrong, and some of the cities don’t even exist.

Other viral posts claim the election night vote count followed an algorithm in which Lula gained a percentage point and Bolsonaro lost half for every 12 percent of polling stations that reported results.

But these numbers do not match the actual numbers.

– Fake Items –

Other posts copy the look of mainstream media to spread fake news.

The G1 news site of Globo, Brazil’s largest media group, is a frequent target.

In a screenshot of an alleged G1 article, Lula says he will confiscate Brazilians’ firearms if elected.

Another quoted him as saying, “Even God can’t stop me from winning this election.”

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