Brazilian vaccine opponents are spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccinations mainly through the Telegram messenger. writes The New York Times. According to the newspaper, this is the most “lenient” distributor of information. President Bolsonaro has spoken out against blocking fake content. According to him, disinformation is a trivial problem. “Fake news is part of our lives,” the president said in September. “Who has never lied to his girlfriend?”
Telegram became one of the most popular messengers in Brazil after Bolsonaro himself began to actively use and advertise it. While WhatsApp remains the dominant messaging platform in Brazil, Telegram is rapidly gaining traction. According to the NYT, by August it was installed in 53% of all smartphones in the country, up from 15% two years earlier.
Brazilian officials fear Telegram will become the main tool ahead of next year’s presidential elections. Already, Bolsonaro, whose prospects for re-election were threatened due to the decline in his popularity, publishes many messages on the channel with doubts about the integrity of Brazil’s voting system. He writes that electronic voting machines will falsify the results. The opposition and judges, in turn, note that the abundance of such misinformation causes irreparable damage to its democracy.
The secretary general of Brazil’s electoral court, Aline Ossorio, who oversees his anti-disinformation program, said the court has established a constructive working relationship with other social media administrations that have become agents of disinformation campaigns. But attempts to contact Telegram, which is based in Dubai, have been unsuccessful.