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Bolsonaro behind multimillion-pound fake news campaign, Haddad charges

Brazilian newspaper claims to have found a £2.5 million corporate-backed plan to spam Workers' Party supporters with false information

WORKERS Party (PT) presidential candidate Fernando Haddad is accusing far-right opponent Jair Bolsonaro of organising an illegal multimillion-pound defamation campaign via WhatsApp prior to next week’s election run-off election.

“We have identified a campaign of slander and defamation via WhatsApp and, given the mass of messages, we know that there was dirty money behind it, because it wasn’t registered with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal,” Brazil’s left-wing candidate told a Sao Paulo media conference on Thursday.

The suspected fraud was uncovered  by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper, which alleges that corporate groups are backing a campaign to use the popular messaging app to reach out to Haddad supporters and bombard them with fake news in an effort to coerce their votes.

The paper claims to have discovered contracts worth up to £2.5 million each for companies to spam the virtual space with false information.

Quickmobile, Yacows, Crock Services, and SMS Market are some of the entities listed in the report as hired by the Bolsonaro camp to generate numbers that would later be used to send hundreds of millions of WhatsApp messages.

Such a practice is illegal under Brazilian law, forcing the PT to file an official complaint with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

“We have information that 156 entrepreneurs are involved in this. People will be called to testify,” Mr Haddad tweeted, accusing his rival of “electoral crime to gain an advantage.”

He also demanded that the far-right candidate be eliminated and that the second round of election be contested between him and Ciro Gomes of the Democratic Labour Party (PDT), who came third with 12.5 per cent of the vote in the first round.

Mr Bolsonaro did not challenge the newspaper claim, declaring: ”I can’t control it if an entrepreneur who is friendly to me is doing this.

“I know it’s against the law, but I can’t control it. I have no way of knowing about it and taking measures.”

The Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) is asking the TSE to temporarily restrict WhatsApp messaging for 120 million user accounts in Brazil so as to combat the spread of fake news.

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