As Brazil cracks down on fake news, Bolsonaro’s new move is straight out of Trump’s playbook


After Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election bid failed, some supporters claimed that the media and social media had been unfair to the former president, a narrative that continues to resonate among his base today.

Similar claims are echoed thousands of miles to the south of Brazil, where allies of right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro have claimed he is a “victim” even before the country’s presidential runoff begins on Dec. 30. October, offering a vision. of how Bolsonaro could dispute a possible victory of his rival, former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Bolsonaro is the victim of the biggest electoral fraud ever seen,” Bolsonaro’s son, the senator, tweeted. Flávio Bolsonaro on Wednesday.

Right-wing senator Lasier Martins meanwhile called for the election to be postponed, a chilling suggestion in a nation that still bears the scars of military dictatorship.

Both were reacting to Brazil’s election authority’s decision Wednesday to dismiss a complaint that Bolsonaro’s ads received less airtime than Lula da Silva’s, in an alleged violation of campaign laws.

On Wednesday evening, Bolsonaro called a last-minute press conference in Brasilia where he made the same allegations of airtime violations and vowed to appeal the decision.

“Dozens of thousands of ads for the other side, and on our side we didn’t see them, on the radio we saw almost zero,” he said.

“We know it’s the last minute, the elections are just around the corner (…) but that’s why the urgency and that’s why we’re appealing,” added Bolsonaro, perhaps aware of the look of desperation.

Alexandre de Moraes, president of the Supreme Electoral Court, has defended the decision, saying it is not the court’s role to oversee the placement of political ads, and even called for an investigation of Bolsonaro’s campaign for allegedly try to muddy the waters of the elections by running. a meritless complaint so close to election day.

Brazilian authorities have aggressively stepped up a crackdown on disinformation ahead of Sunday’s runoff between the two political titans, an initiative that has drawn criticism for being overreaching.

Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court has seen a 1,600% increase in complaints of online misinformation regarding the 2020 election. Both Bolsonaro and da Silva have filed complaints about attack ads from their opponents this election cycle. The ads linked Bolsonaro to cannibalism and pedophilia, and Da Silva to satanic cults and organized crime.

To deal with this avalanche, Brazil’s Supreme Court issued a ruling on Tuesday that allows its electoral authority to order the removal of specific posts and videos containing false information within an hour of their publication.

On Friday, with the new ruling already in effect, Moraes ordered the removal of 135 posts deemed disinformation and the closure of two Telegram channels that spread messages of political violence, CNN Brasil reported.

But Bolsonaro’s supporters argue that the crackdown itself constitutes unfair intrusion and that if his campaign was allowed to continue speaking freely, he would win the election.

His opponents fear that Bolsonaro himself may make a similar argument after election day; if he loses, he could focus his anger on the claim that election authorities “blocked” him from disseminating information.

Bolsonaro pledged on Friday to respect the result of the election, saying after a televised debate with Lula da Silva that “this is democracy, whoever gets the most votes gets it.”

Still, this has done little to reassure his critics.

Whether the right-wing incumbent wins or loses the election, a Trump-like strategy could still prevail; by the end of this electoral cycle, Bolsonaro will have introduced into Brazilian democracy the notion that democratic institutions cannot be trusted, even those established to protect the fairness of elections.

If the rhetoric in America today, two years after the 2020 election, is any indication, Brazil should brace itself for deeper division for some time.

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