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Stolen by WhatsApp! Brazil Poll shows Election "Drowned" in Fake News

*** Majority of voters polled believed top 5 viral fake news stories when they voted, including those who switched support to Bolsonaro in recent weeks. ***  


NEW YORK/SAO PAULO (October 31, 2018).— A new poll commissioned by Avaaz shows the vast reach and impact of fake news in the Brazilian election. The survey, conducted by Ideia Big Data , asked voters if they saw and believed 5 of the most viral fake news stories that flooded social media during the final weeks of the election, including stories about voting machines being rigged to vote Haddad and Haddad circulating kits to “turn kids gay” in schools.

Stunningly, 98.21% of Bolsonaro voters surveyed were exposed to one or more fake news stories, and 89.77% believed they were based on fact. The “gay kits” story was believed by 84% of Bolsonaro supporters and the voting machine story by 74%.

In a follow-up poll, 40% of those surveyed said they had changed their position from “opposing or having doubts about” Bolsonaro to “deciding to” or “considering” voting for him in recent weeks. The exact time period when most of these fake news stories we’re going viral.  

Brazilians are clearly aware of the troubling impact fake news had on this election. Nearly 80% of Brazilians in the poll support calls for social media platforms to "correct the record" by distributing independent fact-checker corrections to fake news stories.

Reacting to these results, Ricken Patel, Avaaz CEO and founder, said:

"Brazilian democracy is drowning in fake news. These stories were carefully crafted, toxic weapons designed to destroy a politician's electability. And with the help of Facebook and WhatsApp, they were as widely spread and believed as some of the top real news stories of the election.

"How many democracies need to die before Mark Zuckerberg stops this madness on his platforms? We urgently need the world to wake up to the greatest threat facing democracies today: a far-right wing disinformation blitzkrieg on social media.

"If Silicon Valley would simply delete all fake and imposter social media accounts involved in spreading disinformation, and distribute independent fact-checker corrections to everyone exposed to toxic fake news, it would put a massive dent in this problem. Our democracies are only an election away from death by Facebook. We need urgent action now.

"We can't let WhatsApp's encryption make it a free for all for criminal activity. Democracy activists in authoritarian countries have better-encrypted options like Signal. At a minimum, WhatsApp must urgently install default disinformation protection, giving users the option to protect themselves and their democracies. With elections approaching fast in the US, India and Europe, Zuckerberg has weeks, not months, to act."

The Organization of American States (OAS) has called the spread of fake news via private networks to manipulate the Brazilian electorate “ perhaps unprecedented .” Multiple polls prior to the final election found that the majority of fake news was targeted at Haddad and the Worker’s Party (PT).

These fake news stories travelled largely on social media -- though some like the voting machine rigging and “gay kit” were echoed on online news sites. WhatsApp, used by 120 million Brazilians (more than 50% of the country) was a particular culprit in the spread. A massive investigation by Folha de Sao Paulo before the run off election found that businesses allied to the Bolsonaro campaign had set up a large-scale illegal mobilization on WhatsApp up to 300,000 groups reaching up to 77 million Brazilians. The matter is under investigation by the electoral tribunal.

Ideia Big Data’s Polling Methodology: In conducting this poll , Ideia Big Data, used its mobile application used by more than 700,000 Brazilians across the geographic and socioeconomic spectrum. The poll was conducted from October 26 to 29 and interviewed 1,491 people. Of the 120.7 million people who accessed the internet in May, June and July of this year, 49% did so use only the mobile phone. While class A is almost completely connected (99%), class C has 69% of households with Internet access and classes D and E, 30%, with 80% being made on mobile devices. Source . IBGE Poll says 138 million of Brazilians have a mobile, total population in Brazil is 209.3 million (2017 stats from IBGE ).