Report in the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo affirms that four agencies were contracted by companies to carry out the service
Brasil de Fato | São Paulo (SP)
18 October 2018 at 13:04
If the link of the campaign with illegal acts is proven, Bolsonaro may be ineligible to stand for eight years
An investigative report published by Folha de S. Paulo this Thursday (18th) denounced that companies are buying packages for mass dispersal of messages against the Worker’s Party (PT) on WhatsApp. According to the report, the companies prepared a large operation for the week before the second round.
Supporters of Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), the companies used the database of contacts sold by digital strategy agencies and also that of the candidate. The law only permits the use of the list of supporters of the candidate, with contacts provided voluntarily.
To send hundreds of millions of messages, each contract signed reaches R$ 12 million. Among the buyers of the service is Havan, whose owner, Luciano Hang, obliged its staff to vote for Jair Bolsonaro. The practice is considered illegal, as it counts as a campaign donation by companies, if the direct connection between the institutions and the PSL candidate.
João Meira, Professor in Political Law, explains that articles 222 and 237 of the electoral legislation deal with the annulment of elections for illicit campaigning methods and for abuse of economic power.
“With the strength this propaganda through WhatsApp has and the industry of lies that has been set up, with ads practically impossible to be monitored, if it is proven that there was abuse of economic power of R$12 million, with illicit contracting, this results in a fraud that completely stains the electoral process. If it is proven that Bolsonaro and his campaign are linked to the actions of these groups of people carrying out illegal acts, even if he is elected, he can be disqualified and decreed ineligible to stand for eight years” says Meira.
Among the agencies identified by the report as responsible for ‘mass dispersal’ are Quickmobile, Yacows, Croc Services and SMS Market. However, the Bolsonaro campaign accounts show only that the company AM4 Brasil Inteligencia Digital, which received R$ 115,000 for digital media work.
The cost of the service varies from R$ 0.08 to R$ 0.12 to send the message to the candidate’s database and from R$ 0.30 to R$ 0.40 when the database is supplied by the agency. The agencies offer segmentation by geographical region and even by level of income.
The Folha newspaper affirms that one of the tools used by the Bolsonaro campaign is the generation of numbers automatically overseas by sites such as TextNow. The report also cites that the databases of contacts are often supplied illegally by credit companies or by staff from telephone companies.
With area codes from other countries, the administrators are able to evade the spam filters and the limits imposed by WhatsApp, for example, the maximum of 256 participants in each group and the automatic forwarding of a single message to up to 20 people or groups.
Fernando Haddad, the principal target of fake news in these elections, said he would file court actions against the companies. He said the episode once again showed, that Bolsonaro does not respect democracy.
“We will be asking for steps to be taken by Electoral Justice and by the Federal Police, so that these corrupt businessmen are immediately arrested to stop these WhatsApp messages. There are already names of companies, the names of companies, contracts, the amount paid through the second set of books, caixa 2 , which is an electoral crime. He, who runs away from the debates, will not be able to run from Justice”, the petista declared on video.
In a press release, the PT said they had requested an “investigation by the Federal Police of the criminal practices by Bolsonaro”.
“This is a coordinated plan to influence the electoral process, which cannot be ignored by Electoral Justice nor go unpunished. We are taking all the judicial measures for him to answer for his crimes, including the use of caixa 2, because the spending of millions on the industry of lies are not declared by his campaign”, the text states.
“The criminal methods of deputy Jair Bolsonaro are intolerable in a democracy. The Brazilian institutions have the obligation to act to defend against damage to the electoral process. The social networks cannot watch their use passively to spread lies and offenses, becoming accomplices in the manipulation of millions of users”, the party denounced.
The report sought comment from Havan, but had received no response by the time of publication.
Editing: Nina Fideles