The WhatsApp Inc. mobile-messaging application WhatsApp and the Facebook Inc. application are displayed along with other apps on an Apple Inc. iPhone (Photographer: Brent Lewin/Bloomberg)

Facebook, WhatsApp Step Up Efforts in Brazil’s Fake News Battle

(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc and its messaging app WhatsApp are trying to crack down on the spread of misinformation, spam and fake accounts on social media ahead of Brazil’s election runoff, according to two company representatives.

Monica Guise, Facebook’s public policy manager for Brazil, told reporters at a press conference in Sao Paulo that the company is trying to weed out "bad actors" to reduce misinformation and to help users spot "bad-quality" content.

Ahead of the Oct. 28 vote, both far-right presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro and the leftwing Workers’ Party candidate Fernando Haddad have raised concerns about the issue, while Brazil’s election court held a press conference last Sunday to explain how it’s trying to combat rumors about the voting process. Representatives of both Facebook and WhatsApp say they have stepped up measures to combat fake news in Brazil.

For Facebook that includes an increase in both its content and security teams, besides work with fact-checking agencies and removing erroneous content, Guise said. A war room was set at Facebook’s headquarter in Menlo Park, California, which counts on engineers, a legal team, data scientists and other experts. "We monitor potential threats and coordinate our response really fast," she said.

WhatsApp has also taken a few steps, according to Victoria Grand, the company’s VP for policy and communications. These range from keeping in daily contact with Brazil’s top electoral authority to investing in a multi-million dollar marketing campaign called ’Share Facts, Not Rumors’ as well as banning more than 100,000 accounts in Brazil. It has recently set a limit for the number of people to whom one can forward messages using the app: five for Indian users and twenty for other countries.

"There’s no question WhatsApp is part of the electoral conversation," Grand said in Sao Paulo. "This is a critical moment for Brazil. We are very focused on making sure that we get it right and we do everything in our power to take a broad sense of our responsibility."

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