Facebook misses misinformation in Brazilian election ads


Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 elections, a new report from Global Witness has revealed, continuing a pattern of not capturing material that violates its policies that the group described as “alarming”.

The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming elections, such as promoting a wrong election date, incorrect voting methods and questioning the integrity of the election – including the voting system. electronic voting in Brazil.

This is the fourth time the London-based nonprofit has tested Meta’s ability to detect gross breaches of the rules of its most popular social media platform – and the fourth such test that Facebook has missed. In all three previous cases, Global Witness submitted ads containing violent hate speech to see if Facebook’s checks – either human reviewers or artificial intelligence – would catch them. They do not have.

“Facebook has identified Brazil as one of its priority countries where it invests special resources specifically to counter election-related misinformation,” said Jon Lloyd, senior adviser at Global Witness. “So we really wanted to test their systems with enough time for them to work. And with the US midterm elections approaching, Meta just needs to get it right – and now.

National elections in Brazil will be held on October 2 amid high tensions and misinformation threatening to discredit the electoral process. Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the country. In a statement, Meta said it has ” intensively prepared for the 2022 elections in Brazil.

“We have launched tools that promote reliable information and label election-related messages, established a direct channel for the Superior Electoral Court (Brazil’s electoral authority) to send us potentially harmful content for review, and continue to collaborate closely with Brazilian authorities and researchers,” the company said.

READ MORE: Brazilians are mobilizing for democracy and seeking to contain President Jair Bolsonaro

In 2020, Facebook began requiring advertisers who want to run ads about elections or politics to go through a permissions process and include “paid by” disclaimers, as it does in states. -United. The increased safeguards follow the 2016 US presidential election, when Russia used rubles to pay for political ads designed to stoke divisions and unrest among Americans.

Global Witness said it broke these rules when it submitted the test announcements (which were approved for publication but were never published). The group placed the ads from outside Brazil, Nairobi and London, which should have raised red flags.

It also wasn’t required to put a “paid by” disclaimer on the ads and didn’t use a Brazilian payment method — all safeguards Facebook says it has in place to prevent use. misuse of its platform by malicious actors trying to interfere in elections around the world.

“What is clear from the results of this survey and others is that their content moderation capabilities and the integrity systems that they deploy in order to mitigate some of the risk during election times, it doesn’t work. just not,” Lloyd said.

The group uses ads as a test and not regular posts, as Meta claims to hold ads to an “even stricter” standard than regular, unpaid posts, according to its help center page for paid advertisements.

But judging by the four surveys, Lloyd said it’s not really clear.

“We constantly have to take Facebook at its word. And without a verified independent third-party audit, we simply cannot hold Meta or any other tech company accountable for what they say they are doing,” he said.

Global Witness submitted ten advertisements to Meta that clearly violated its policies on election-related advertising. They included false information about when and where to vote, for example, and questioned the integrity of Brazil’s voting machines – echoing disinformation used by malicious actors to destabilize democracies around the world.

In another study conducted by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, researchers identified more than two dozen ads on Facebook and Instagram, for the month of July, that promoted misleading information or attacked voting machines. country electronics.

The university’s internet and social media department, NetLab, which also participated in the Global Witness study, found that many of them had been funded by candidates vying for a seat in a federal legislature or of state.

This will be the first election in Brazil since the coming to power of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, a candidate for re-election. Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked the integrity of the country’s electronic voting system.

“Disinformation figured prominently in his 2018 election, and this year’s election is already marred by reports of widespread disinformation, spread from the highest levels: Bolsonaro is already casting doubt on the legitimacy of the election results, raising fears of a US-inspired election January 6 “stop theft” coup attempt, Global Witness said.

In its previous investigations, the group found that Facebook did not detect hate speech in Myanmar, where ads used a slur to refer to people of Indian or Muslim background and call for their death; in Ethiopia, where ads used dehumanizing hate speech to call for the killing of people from each of Ethiopia’s three main ethnic groups; and in Kenya, where advertisements spoke of beheadings, rapes and bloodshed.

Associated Press writer Diane Jeantet contributed to this story.


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