Brazil electoral court could ban Telegram app for not fighting fake news

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BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's top electoral authority, the TSE, is considering whether to ban the messaging app Telegram during the run-up to October elections because it has not responded to requests to help combat the spread of misinformation.

Telegram, which has a development team based in Dubai, is the second-most popular messaging service in Brazil but has no representative office in the South American country.

The head of the TSE electoral court, Luis Roberto Barroso, has sought since mid-December to meet with Telegram executive director and founder Pavel Durov to discuss ways to combat the spread of false information.

"No relevant actor in the 2022 electoral process can operate in Brazil without adequate legal representation, responsible for complying with national legislation and judicial decisions," Barroso said in a statement on Thursday.

Barroso noted that the TSE has already entered into partnerships with almost all the main social media platforms to curb fake news and the spread of conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of Brazil's electoral system.

Telegram did not respond to a request for comment. According to the TSE, 53% of smartphones in Brazil use the Telegram app.

The country's far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has 1 million subscribers on Telegram. The president's allies turned to the app after other platforms, such as Meta Platforms Inc's WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, removed some of his postings.

The TSE warned that it will discuss measures to be taken in early February, and highlighted that there should be no exceptions in relation to platforms that operate in Brazil.

Last week, Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said

it could shut down Telegram if the messenger service popular with far-right groups and people opposed to pandemic-related restrictions continues to violate German law.

(Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Anthony Boadle; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)