Facebook banned disinformation networks linked to Brazil's president downplaying Covid-19’s severity
- In a sweep of disinformation networks in five nations, Facebook on Wednesday removed accounts linked to Brazil's president.
- Jair Bolsonaro has continually downplayed the coronavirus pandemic - despite recently testing positive for it.
- Example posts show the accounts posted information that claimed the virus death rate is "fabricated" by the media.
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Facebook removed disinformation accounts linked to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that downplayed the coronavirus, the company said in a blog post.
"They posted about local news and events including domestic politics and elections, political memes, criticism of the political opposition, media organisations and journalists, and most recently they posted about the coronavirus pandemic," Facebook said of the 35 Facebook accounts, 14 Pages, 1 Group and 38 Instagram accounts.
Bolsonaro has been embattled as Brazil struggles with one of the world's worst Covid-19 outbreaks, which he has downplayed. The president has tested positive for what he calls the "little flu" on Monday after contracting a cough and fever over the weekend.
In an example post included in the Facebook blog post, a video posted by the network is titled "Globo Lies," and contains text that accuses media outlet Globo of "fabricating the coronavirus deaths/death rate."
"We found this activity as part of our investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behaviour in Brazil reported on by press and referenced in recent congressional testimony in Brazil. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Social Liberal Party and some of the employees of the offices of Anderson Moraes, Alana Passos, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Flavio Bolsonaro and Jair Bolsonaro," Facebook wrote in the blog post.
Eduardo Bolsonaro and Flavio Bolsonaro are the president's sons.
Facebook also removed a disinformation network connected to Roger Stone, the longtime ally of President Trump, as well as networks that originated in Canada and Ecuador, Brazil, Ukraine, and the US.
"The majority of the activity we removed today focused on domestic audiences in each country and was linked to commercial entities and individuals associated with political campaigns and political offices," the blog post says.
Also on Wednesday, a lengthy new civil rights audit done with the cooperation of Facebook blasted the company's refusal to fact-check what it deems "political speech" on its platform. "We have grave concerns that the combination of the company's decision to exempt politicians from fact-checking and the precedents set by its recent decisions on President Trump's posts, leaves the door open for the platform to be used by other politicians to interfere with voting," the audit says.
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