BRASILIA – In order to prevent the dissemination of false information during and soon following the country’s October election, Brazilian authorities demanded on Friday that messaging service WhatsApp postpone the introduction of its new feature called Communities in Brazil until January.
Federal prosecutors claimed that the new tool’s wider application comes “at a time when bogus news concerning the efficiency of institutions and the reliability of the Brazilian voting system could undermine the democratic stability of the country.”
Communities might undercut the effective measures WhatsApp has implemented in recent years to stop the dissemination of false information, according to the MPF, as the federal prosecutor’s office is known.
One of the most popular messaging apps used by Jair Bolsonaro’s far-right supporters to communicate, plan rallies, and express their opinions is WhatsApp.
Bolsonaro is running for re-election, but in Brazil’s most divisive election in decades, he is lagging behind the leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
The messaging service operated by Meta Platforms decided in April to delay the debut of the new platform until after a second-round run-off election that is anticipated to take place at the end of October.
The MPF, however, claimed in a statement that this was insufficient to address the “severe threats that an increase in disinformation can produce… in the last two months of the year.”
A representative for WhatsApp said the company would properly respond to the authorities’ request and would continue to carefully consider when the new platform should be introduced.
99% of Brazilian cellphones, according to the MPF, have WhatsApp loaded.
Messages may be sent to 2,560 persons at once thanks to the new functionality, which would increase the number of users from the current 256 to 512. The MPF claimed that this would boost users’ capacity to spread content quickly.
The prosecution pointed out that end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp hinders people in charge of the platform from keeping an eye on and policing the content of messages sent and received there.