Campaigning before Brazil runoff vote marred by violence

Brazil police to probe allegations of election disinformation on WhatsApp

WhatsApp is immensely popular in Brazil, which is home to almost one in 10 users worldwide, but it has come under scrutiny during this election as concerns grow about whether false or manipulated messages are influencing voters.

Bolsonaro said in an online video that he had no knowledge of such activity and called on any supporters doing so to stop.

There are around 120 million users of the messaging service in Brazil, whose population is 210 million.

The Social messaging service WhatsApp has now become an important way through which Brazilians keep in touch with family, friends, colleagues.

The suit, which also asks that the justice system demand that WhatsApp put in place a containment plan to avoid the dissemination of false information, seeks to stop a "tsunami of fake news" scheduled for next week, as Brazil enters the final days before the second round of votes, scheduled for October 28.

Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman from a tiny party, had little access to public campaign funding or TV advertising but his grassroots campaign and outsized presence on social media helped him win 46 per cent of votes, almost foregoing a run-off.

Polling firm Datafolha found that two-thirds of Brazilian voters use WhatsApp. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter are easier to police, WhatsApp users exchange information directly over an encrypted network.

WhatsApp has tried to discourage the tsunami of falsehoods by limiting how many recipients a message can be forwarded to.

Yet new questions arose on Friday about the effectiveness and consequences of that technology.

For its part, a movement called United Women against Bolsonaro said that they are united 'because a candidate for the presidency of the country, with a discourse based on hatred, intolerance, authoritarianism and backwardness, threatens our conquests and our already hard existence'. That, they allege, amounts to illegally soliciting undeclared campaign contributions.

Convened under the slogan "Not Him", the rallies were particularly important in cities such as Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, where according to press reports, about 200,000 demonstrators were concentrated in each, and in this capital, with an estimated presence of more than 30,000. His leftist Workers' Party claims it has witnesses saying Bolsonaro had asked business leaders for cash to pay for the bulk messaging.

WhatsApp said in a statement that it was taking the allegation seriously.

Haddad's allies argue that the scandal should invalidate the election. The latest survey, taken before the initial report was published, showed Bolsonaro enjoying 59 percent of the vote, compared to Haddad on 41 percent.

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