Brazil fact-checkers worry about impact ahead of October 30 run-off
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Journalists and fact-checkers in Brazil are concerned about the state of fact-checking in the country, both in the political attacks they face and in the ability of fact-checking to affect outcomes.
“Since 2018, we have been attacked by President Bolsonaro and his supporters because of our verification and fact-checking efforts,” said Tai Nalon, executive director and co-founder of Aos Fatos, a Brazilian fact-checking organization. “Specifically, we have been threatened with legal abuse by his supporters.”
Polls have also shown lower predictive ability in Brazil, with results in some races deviating by up to 30 points.
Respected pollsters showed former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was 14 points ahead of current President Jair Bolsonaro in the days leading up to the Oct. 2 election. While Lula secured 48% of the vote, just short of a majority, it was not enough to win the election and only five points ahead of Bolsonaro’s 43% – a substantial deviation from the poll.
The same dynamic played out in other races across Brazil – the polls turned out to be inaccurate, grossly underestimating right-wing candidates, or “Bolsonaristas”. Expert explanations of this trend mainly argue that many people do not decide their votes until Election Day.
“It’s hard to understand. There are many pollsters with many different methodologies who haven’t received a last minute wave against Bolsonaro, but I think that’s because people aren’t sure of their decisions until the last minute.” said Tai Nalon. “It seems obvious, but it’s not. . What are the incentives in a very polarized society to choose right away who to vote for, if nothing is supposed to change? Of course, there are many more factors, but sometimes people just pay attention to something else.
Courts have forced contestants to remove false and misleading information from social media, albeit at a rate far exceeded by the traffic misinformation itself.
“Electoral Court judges demanded that campaigns and candidates remove misleading posts from social media platforms,” Nalon said. “However, timing is their enemy. Many of their rulings are already out of date when published as misinformation spreads rapidly, gaining traction on WhatsApp or Telegram.
Fact checks by Aos Fatos have already been censored by Brazilian courts, including two fact checks on Brazilian publication Revista Oeste. Last year, a Brazilian judge ruled that Aos Fatos had to remove references to Revista Oeste, after the newspaper took them to court, claiming fact checks had created financial problems.
“Disinformation comes from the top, as Bolsonaro misrepresents and amplifies conspiracy theories from small extremist groups,” Nalon said. “But misinformation is also more fragmented as social media platforms and apps, such as Telegram, TikTok, Kwai, Gettr are more popular.”
Nalon added that “it is clear that, compared to the 2018 election, the misinformation in the video is much more prevalent.”
The second round will take place on October 30. Although pundits and polls had Lula winning, if Brazil’s electoral record tells us anything, don’t bet on it.
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Of actuality :
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From/for the community:
- The International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute awarded $450,000 in grants to organizations working to reduce the impact of false and misleading information on WhatsApp. In partnership with Meta, the Disseminate the Facts grant program gives fact-checking organizations resources to identify, report and reduce the spread of misinformation that threatens more than 100 billion messages every day. The grant supports eleven projects from eight countries, including India, Spain, Nigeria, Georgia, Bolivia, Italy, Indonesia and Jordan. Learn more about the ad here.
- To combat the spread of health-related misinformation and demystify common perceptions about health care and practices at the field level, THIP Media and news checker — both signatories of the IFCN — announced a collaboration in early September. “The two teams will collaborate to identify and verify health myths and misinformation prevalent on social media.”
- Stay tuned for more information on grant recipients in future Factually additions.
- The Supreme Court has dismissed Candace Owens’ appeal in her lawsuit against IFCN signatories Lead Stories and USA Today. Read more here.
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