Terms like disinformation, misinformation, post-truth, and, of course, fake news quickly became part of Brazilians' day-to-day lexicon. From evidence-lacking accusations of electoral fraud to the myth of a lost city in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, inaccurate or fabricated stories continue to challenge a common sense of reality. This environment turns into both victim and offender as the South American country prepares to hold the 2022 general elections. Voters will choose – on the same day – their state deputies and governors, federal deputies and senators for the National Congress, and president. With so much at stake, citizens worry not only about who will win or lose but even more so about the political system's stability altogether. As of September 2021, more than three out of four people thought the spread of fake news on politicians and the Supreme Court threatened democracy in Brazil. Meanwhile, because the number of internet users keeps increasing and more than half turn to social media to read the news, institutions are trying to eradicate falsehoods online.
Messaging apps and misinformation
Brazil's Superior Electoral Court (TSE, as abbreviated in Portuguese) signed deals with multiple tech brands to monitor and hinder the spread of fake news online. Facebook, Google, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, WhatsApp, and YouTube were among the first platforms to formally collaborate with the institution. The main concern, however, was messaging apps, where users can create private groups to propagate deceitful content far from public scrutiny. After months of seeking a cooperation deal, TSE finally managed to get Telegram on board in May 2022. The joint effort entails enabling users to flag suspicious messages and access information directly from the court's official channel. Most of the population seems to be on board too. Over 80 percent of Brazilians think social media platforms should delete fake content as soon as possible, according to a March 2022 survey. The same study also found that little more than half of the respondents agreed that messaging apps should be suspended if they disobey a court order – a sword of Damocles constantly hanging over the heads of WhatApp and Telegram in Brazil.
Legacy media's quest for credibility
News sources' pursuit of trustworthiness goes beyond the realm of social media, however. In March 2022, an average of 39 percent of Brazilians expressed trust in legacy media like TV, radio, and print newspapers – whereas Telegram, Facebook, TikTok, and WhatsApp did not surpass 19 percent. Other figures suggest that journalistic companies still have a long way to go to prove their commitment to facts. During a mid-2021 survey, almost four out of five interviewees said news organizations in Brazil try to cover up their mistakes instead of admitting their missteps. The same study showed that about two-thirds of respondents think it is important to double-check a story with multiple sources. Yet almost 30 percent said they could tell if a news outlet is credible based on how it looks, indicating that appearance also matters when it comes to projecting a reputable image.
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