YouTube and Meta pushing Bolsonaro ‘Stop the Steal’ misinformation that may endanger election, report alleges

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

YouTube and Meta are profiting from Brazilian election disinformation, a new report claims.

YouTube’s algorithm has promoted prominent Brazilian ‘stop the steal’ videos which collectively have racked up 22 million views, campaign group SumOfUs alleges, and been interacted with 2.3 million times on Facebook.

Conspiracy theories rooting from President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric that he will contest the results of election voting taking place this Sunday if he deems them fraudulent, similar to claims made by former president Donald Trump, have been spreading on Meta-owned WhatsApp.

“I’ll hand over the presidential sash to whoever wins the election cleanly,” Mr Bolsonaro has said, “not with fraud.”

Mr Bolsonaro has also told his supporters to "swear to give my life for freedom," and "take to the streets for the last time", as the right-wing politican drops in the poles against Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, Brazil’s former president from 2003 to 2010.

SumOfUs’ report highlights 10 which it claims could be “exposing millions of new people to extremist election conspiracy theories and seriously undermining the democratic process”.

These 10 are apparently responsible for 2.3 million Facebook interactions, 15,734 Instagram interactions, and 23,251 Twitter interactions.

It also claims that only six of the channels have been demonitised on YouTube, meaning that the company is still receiving revenue from the other four and allegedly flaunting a Superior Electoral Court order that states specific election misinformation spreaders must stop receiving funds from ad revenues.

On Facebook, 56 problematic ads apparently attacking the electoral process by spreading false information about electronic voting while also promoting a military coup. These adverts have received, collectively, almost three million impressions, the report says.

 (SumOfUs)
(SumOfUs)

"YouTube and Meta have added rocket fuel to Brazil’s ‘stop the steal’ movement, helping Bolsonaro copy Trump’s playbook to the letter, and causing incalculable damage to Brazilian democracy. One by one, elections around the world are getting sabotaged by Big Tech -- if we don’t act now to save democracy, at some point it will be too late”, Vicky Wyatt, SumOfUs campaign director, said in a statement.

Meta was also criticised by SumOfUs earlier this month, claiming that Facebook adverts and extremist rhetoric shared on WhatsApp could put the election at risk.

"It illustrates again Facebook’s role in pumping out violent and hateful content to large numbers of users," the group said.

"One ad, which was taken down before the release of this report, features a military combat knife and gear with hashtags related to the 7th September rallies. It ran during the week of August 25th... Despite the ad takedown, an almost identical post remains up on the shop page ‘Military Bazar’ since August 23rd. SumOfUs has reported the post."

YouTube and Meta did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment before time of publication.