Understanding the differences between social media rules in US and Brazilian elections

By Patricia Campos Mello

February 15, 2022

The agreements disclosed by the TSE (Superior Electoral Court) and the internet platforms fall far short of the election policies adopted by the companies in the US, and fail to explain how they will react if the result of the 2022 election is contested and there is incitement to violence — the main concern expressed by authorities and experts.

In Brazil, with the exception of Twitter, none of the companies — Google/YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Kwai — currently specifies how they will react in the event of a massive campaign of electoral disinformation, such as the one that occurred in the US and culminated in the invasion of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, resulting in five deaths. In addition, Brazil’s main sources of dissemination of false statements about alleged election fraud include President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and his allies.

See the differences listed below.



IN THE UNITED STATES

How the platforms prepared for the 2020 US presidential election (the vote was held on November 3, 2020)

Facebook and Instagram:

“We started preparing for the 2020 election almost two years in advance, which allowed us to identify emerging threats and prepare systems to deal with it.”

2018

  • Started requiring advertisers buying ads about “social issues, elections or politics” to prove their identity and location, with a US address, phone number, corporate email and website. Such ads get a “paid by” label so that users know who is trying to influence them with the ads.
  • Launched ad library in the US.

2020

  • Announced that it would start slapping informational labels on content that “delegitimizes election results or questions the legitimacy of voting methods by claiming that the process will lead to fraud.”
  • Banned content that calls for polling place inspections using militarized language (like the formation of an Army for Trump).
  • Banned ads that prematurely declare victory in the election; attempt to delegitimize the election because the result did not come out on the same day as the vote; or claim that the voting and vote-counting system is illegal, fraudulent or corrupted or will lead to a rigged result.
  • Suspended ads about social issues, politics and elections until March 4, 2021.
  • Designated the US as a “high-risk location” in order to expedite the removal of posts and stopped suggesting users join “civic groups,” as well as restricting the number of group invitations people could send per day.

2021

  • Suspended Donald Trump’s account for 24 hours and, on January 7, indefinitely.
  • After consulting with the Facebook Oversight Board, announced that the suspension would last 2 years.

YouTube (Google)

2020

  • Limited recommendations for “borderline” content and increased prominence of news channels. This restriction applied to videos that attempted to mislead voters about the voting process, such as those providing the wrong election date, or that presented false information about the eligibility of candidates or elected officials, such as saying a candidate could not hold office based on false information about his or her citizenship.
  • Announced that it would remove content inciting violence and include an election results panel from the AP news agency.
  • Announced the ban of more than 8,000 channels since September 2020; announced that it would remove videos with claims that widespread fraud had influenced the election.
  • Announced that channels posting videos with false allegations about the election would receive a strike (resulting in a temporary suspension and temporary inability to upload new videos or broadcast live streams; channels that get three strikes in a 90-day period are permanently removed from YouTube).

2021

YouTube suspended then-President Donald Trump’s channel for seven days for inciting violence. At the end of the month, it announced that the suspension would be indefinite.

  • Announced that it would pause running political ads because of the Capitol invasion, as well as ads with references to impeachment, inauguration or protests on Capitol Hill. Pause lasted until February 24, 2021.
  • Google maintained a library of political ads in the US, Australia, the European Union, the UK, India, Israel, New Zealand, and Taiwan. The library was not available in Brazil.

Twitter

2019

  • Banned all types of political advertising on the platform, including state media.
  • Added labels to profiles of candidates and pre-candidates with party information, information about the office they are running for, etc.

2020

  • Began training with mock elections in scenarios with foreign interference, leaks of hacked material and uncertainty about results.
  • Expanded the platform’s civic integrity policies to label or remove false or misleading content that causes confusion about the civic process, institutions or authorities; disputed claims that can undermine confidence in the electoral process, such as unproven voter fraud information, fraudulent ballots or vote counting; misleading claims about election results or claiming victory before final results, which can incite illegal behavior and impede the peaceful transition of power.
  • Implemented security requirements for prominent political profiles.

2021

TikTok

2019

  • Announced that it would not accept political ads of any kind.

2020

  • Updated policies on misleading content with specific items for election. Gave examples of violations of the rules: “false statements that attempt to erode trust in institutions, such as saying there is voter fraud with vote by mail or that votes will not be counted; misleading content about election date, attempt to intimidate voters or suppress voting.”
  • Searches for terms and hashtags associated with hate speech, incitement to violence, or misinformation regarding voter fraud may be redirected to community policies.

2021

  • Announced that it would remove videos in which Trump’s speeches could have incited protesters to storm the Capitol.

IN BRAZIL

Facebook and Instagram

2018

  • Launched a library of electoral and political ads, with information about advertisers, value and reach, and the labels “Paid by” and “electoral advertising.”

2020

  • Started rejecting ads identified as political and electoral by Facebook, but which had not been labeled and declared as such by advertisers.
  • offered a tool called Megaphone for the TSE to deliver messages to Brazilian users about the elections.

2021

  • Announced that, as of December 10, users would see a label on Facebook and Instagram posts about elections in general and be directed to an Electoral Justice page with information.

2022

  • The platform has no specific policy regarding content that questions electoral integrity. It bans posts with offers to buy or sell votes in exchange for money or gifts; statements advocating illegal participation in an electoral process or offering instructions on how to do so; false information about dates, places, times and methods of voting.

Agreement with the TSE:

  • It will announce a Megaphone for the presidential election.
  • It will implement an Instagram chatbot to facilitate voter access to official information about the electoral process.
  • It will reinforce the TSE complaint channel, which should improve responsiveness to electoral disinformation campaigns.

Twitter

2021

  • Updated civic integrity policies and announced that it would label, narrow the scope or remove misleading information in Brazil, such as controversial claims that could call into question the trust in the vote itself, such as unverified information about election fraud, vote tampering, vote counting or certification of election results; and misleading claims about the results of a civic act that require or could cause an interference with the implementation of the results of such act, such as celebrating victory before election results have been certified or inciting unlawful conduct to prevent the implementation of election results.

2022

Agreement with the TSE:

  • It has announced a system of notices in response to voters searching for election-related topics, including one to clarify false narratives about the electronic ballot box and the electoral process and extraordinary notices to clarify serious misinformation narratives.
  • It will have a channel for faster review of TSE complaints about rule violations.

YouTube (Google)

2021

  • Announced that it would begin publishing the “Political Ad Transparency Report for Brazil,” for ads concerning incumbents and candidates for elected office at the federal level. It also stated that it would update policies for mandatory verification of such advertisers. This political ad transparency page had already been in use in Australia, the United Kingdom, the European Union, India, Israel, New Zealand, Taiwan and the United States.

2022

  • Current platform rules bar content aimed at misleading voters about the time, place or means of voting or false claims that may discourage voting, as well as content that encourages people to obstruct or disrupt voting procedures. The ban on false claims that widespread fraud, errors or flaws have altered the results of past national elections, after the final election results are officially certified, applies only to past US presidential elections and the German federal elections of 2021.

Agreement with the TSE:

  • It has re-announced the launch of the ad transparency page, this time for the first half of 2022.
  • It will publish a Doodle (Google logo version) related to the 2022 election.
  • It will launch the Elections Trends Hub, a page with information regarding Google Search trends, in the first half of 2022.
  • It has announced that Google Play Store will feature a selection of applications with civic content during the election period, including official TSE applications.
  • It will have a channel for TSE complaints.

WhatsApp

2019

Reduced the limit for forwarding messages from 20 to 5 conversations at a time.

Implemented extra privacy settings that allow users to decide who can add them to groups.

2020

  • Made it so that “frequently forwarded” messages can only be forwarded to a single conversation at a time.
  • Replaced the quick forward button with a magnifying glass, with which users could choose to copy the message into their web browser to search for more references on that subject.
  • Created a chatbot, in partnership with the TSE, for people to ask questions about voting and access information directly on WhatsApp.
  • Launched a channel to receive reports of accounts suspected of sending mass spam.

2022

Agreement with the TSE:

  • Announced an official TSE channel to communicate with Brazilian voters. This measure goes beyond what had been adopted by the messaging app in the United States in 2020, where there is only a chatbot to which users could write to get information about voting.

TikTok

2020

  • Established an election information center.

2021

  • Banned content that misleads community members about elections or other civic processes.

2022

Agreement with the TSE:

  • It will relaunch a page with information about the electoral process.
  • It will have a channel for receiving and reviewing TSE complaints more quickly.
  • It will publish a transparency report on the application of the policies.
  • During the 2022 elections…

Kwai

2022

Agreement with the TSE:

  • It will launch an information page on the 2022 elections.
  • It will publish the civic integrity rules applied to elections, in simple language and by means of a public URL, to ensure transparency in the platform’s actions in cases of electoral disinformation.
  • It will have an extrajudicial communication channel for TSE complaints.

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