Opinion – Patrícia Campos Mello: Elections in Brazil are the second chance for Big Tech

Opinion – Patrícia Campos Mello: Elections in Brazil are the second chance for Big Tech

By February 14, internet platforms must submit terms of cooperation to the TSE with details on how they are preparing for the election. Considering that Jair Bolsonaro and his surroundings maintain the offensive to discredit the electoral system, and taking into account the disinformation show in the 2018 election, companies should mount war operations to prevent them from being used to manipulate public opinion.

Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp are expected to have the same degree of concern for the Brazilian election as they had for the American one.

Facebook said it started preparing for the 2020 US election two years earlier — and created specific rules for that election and for German. The app stopped recommending users to join “civic” groups, with some political overtones, and restricted the number of invitations that could be sent per day. Facebook and Instagram banned political ads two weeks before the election — they only resumed in March 2021.

Twitter, which had already banned political ads globally in 2019, began, in the American campaign, to remove tweets that incited to interfere or contest the election result. It started with warnings in uninformative tweets from political figures and profiles with more than 100,000 followers and blocking retweets and likes.

YouTube — criticized for being slow to remove conspiratorial videos — created an information-checking panel in search results and banned political ads (also on Google) for a month. Even so, the “Stop the Steal” movement spiraled out of control, culminated in the invasion of the Capitol, and persists to this day.

In Brazil, we know very little about the plans for the platforms. Do companies have teams dedicated to the 2022 election? Will they present specific usage rules for the election? What will they do if one of the candidates doesn’t accept the result and instills supporters? Here, two of the companies promoted by Bolsonaro, Telegram and Gettr, do not even cooperate with the TSE.

It is unknown whether Apple and Google will have policies for candidate applications. The Bolsonaro TV app was downloaded more than 100,000 times on the Google store, and the PT app, more than 50,000.

According to Sophie Zhang, a former Facebook employee who made complaints about the company, the platform ignored attempts to sabotage elections in several countries. She said there was little willingness to protect democracy in countries other than the US or Europe.

The 2022 election is the chance for Big Tech to prove that they have learned from past elections and care about democracy in the world.

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