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Brazil probes bulk poll messages on WhatsApp
October 21, 2018
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BRASÍLIA: Brazilian top electoral court TSE approved on Friday opening a probe over actions to distribute bulk electoral messages against leftist presidential candidate Fernando Haddad over the WhatsApp messaging service, according to official documents.

Facebook Inc’s WhatsApp messaging service became the frontline in Brazil’s bitter presidential campaign on Friday, as front-runner Jair Bolsonaro angrily denied accusations he had encouraged widespread misinformation campaigns on the platform.

On Thursday, newspaper Folha de S.Paulo had reported that supporters of the far-right candidate had funded mass messaging attacks against leftist rival Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro said in an online video that he had no knowledge of such activity and called on any supporters doing so to stop.

Haddad and his allies have urged an investigation and threatened a flurry of legal action, as the race that lawmaker Bolsonaro is expected to win by a landslide on Oct.28 reaches its final stretch.

Later on Friday, Brazil’s top electoral court TSE approved opening a probe into the case.

The recriminations highlight the outsized political role of WhatsApp in the election in Brazil, where its more than 120 million users rival the reach of Facebook’s main platform, in a country with a population of almost 210 million.

Meanwhile, Liberal activist groups and a collective of human rights lawyers are mapping politically-motivated murders and other attacks in Brazil, blaming leading, far-right candidate Bolsonaro’s incendiary statements for the violence. Sociologist and publisher Haroldo Ceravolo has pinpointed 120 reported attacks, including four murders, on his political violence map since the start of October.

The cases include political vandalism, such as several accounts of swastikas painted on buildings.

The mapping “shows a very bad situation, a very big repertoire of violent acts, whether symbolic or real, physical, occurring across the country and related to the discourse of hate of Bolsonaro,” he told reportersw.

Bolsonaro is favored to win the Oct.28 presidential polls.

Human rights lawyers in Sao Paulo meanwhile launched a website on Friday where victims can report attacks and receive legal and psychological support.

Agencies

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