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


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

Similar claims are now echoing thousands of miles south in Brazil, where allies of right-wing populist President Jair Bolsonaro have claimed he is a “victim” even before the country’s October 30 presidential vote begins – offering a glimpse of how Bolsonaro might protest the possible victory of his rival, former president Luis Inácio Lula da Silva.

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

Right-wing Sen. Lasier Martins, meanwhile, called for the election to be postponed – a chilling proposition in a nation still scarred by military dictatorship.

Both were reacting to a decision by Brazil’s election authorities on Wednesday to dismiss a complaint that Bolsonaro’s ads received less airtime than those for Lula da Silva, in an alleged violation of electoral law.

Late on Wednesday night, Bolsonaro called a last-minute press conference in Brazil where he made the same accusations of airtime violations and vowed to appeal the decision.

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

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

Alexandre de Moraes, chief judge of the Supreme Electoral Court, has defended the decision, saying it is not the court’s role to monitor political ads – and even requested an investigation into Bolsonaro’s campaign for allegedly trying to muddy the election by filing. pointless complaint so close to election day.

Brazilian authorities have stepped up a crackdown on disinformation ahead of Sunday’s vote – an initiative that has drawn criticism of the crackdown.

Brazil’s highest electoral court has seen complaints of online misinformation increase by 1,600% compared to 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 child abuse, 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 certain posts and videos containing false information within an hour of 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 actions themselves constitute unfair interference – and that if his campaign was allowed to continue speaking freely, he would win the election.

His opponents fear that Bolsonaro himself may adopt a similar argument after election day; if he loses, he may direct his anger at the claim that election officials have “blocked” him from sharing information.

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

Even so, it has done little to reassure his critics.

Whether a right-wing incumbent wins or loses the election, Trump-like policies may still prevail; by the end of this election cycle, Bolsonaro will have instilled in Brazilian democracy the idea that democratic institutions—even those established to protect the fairness of elections—cannot be trusted.

If the rhetoric today in America is anything to go by, two years after the 2020 elections, Brazil should brace itself for deeper division for some time to come.

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