Published: Tue, October 23, 2018
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

WhatsApp Tells Companies to Stop Spam Amid Brazil Elections

WhatsApp Tells Companies to Stop Spam Amid Brazil Elections

"We are also taking immediate legal measures to prevent companies from sending mass messages via WhatsApp and have already banned accounts associated with those companies".

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 nearly 210 million.

Facebook set up a " war room" to stem the tide of hate speech, false information and other damaging content during Brazil's election this month. It's a test for the social network ahead of midterm elections in the USA later this year. But WhatsApp has been flooded with falsehoods and conspiracy theories.

It said it uses "spam detection technology that spots accounts that engage in abnormal behaviour so they can't be used to spread spam or misinformation".

Brazilian women will once again take to the streets to demonstrate against the candidacy of ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro, whom polls indicate as the favorite to win the runoff presidential election on October 28.

With a career untainted by major corruption investigations, he has rallied voters fed up with years of graft scandals and economic mismanagement while the Workers Party was in power.

The probe was announced after the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper reported that companies had been hired to bulk transmit to many of Brazil's 120 million WhatsApp users messages attacking the leftist candidate in the race, Fernando Haddad. Mr Bolsonaro wrote on Twitter that his opponent's party "isn't being damaged by fake news, but rather by the TRUTH".

Bolsonaro has denied the allegations, and said he was not responsible for what his supporters might do.

A WhatsApp representative said it had "banned hundreds of thousands of accounts during the Brazilian election period". "We are committed to reinforcing WhatsApp policies equally and in a fair way to protect the users' experience", it added.

As the runoff presidential election approachs, Brazil has seen a number of attacks against Workers' Party supporters, journalists and activists.

WhatsApp confirmed that it had blocked Flavio Bolsonaro for "spam behavior" and reasons unconnected to the Folha report. Illegal under-the-table funding by companies could, if proven, lead to the disqualification of the Bolsonaro ticket, said attorney Guilherme Salles Gonçalves, an electoral law expert.

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