Welcome to Monday, where Brazil’s presidential elections go to a runoff, Indonesia launches a probe into a tragic stampede that left at least 125 dead in a soccer stadium, and the Nobel prize season starts with the medicine award. Meanwhile, Die Welt’s Stefan Schocher reports from a village just a few kilometers from what is now the Ukraine-Russia “border” in Putin's eyes.
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Pro-Bolsonaro fake news dominating social media in Brazil
As Brazil heads to a second-round runoff Oct. 30, a report from São Paulo-based Agência Pública finds that the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.
If you only got your news from social media, you might have been mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro was going to win Brazil’s first round of presidential elections, which took place Sunday.
Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes were registering, and it turns out, the results where Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, finished 48% to Bolsonaro’s 42. The two will faceoff head-to-head in the final round on Oct. 30.
An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.
Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.
Of the ten most-shared videos about the issue on Facebook, four of them were made by Gustavo Gayer, a pro-Bolsonaro influencer and congressional candidate for the same party as the president.Topping the list is a video in which Gayer tries to discredit Datafolha, an independent polling institute that is part of the the media conglomerate Grupo Folha, whose most recent poll for the presidential race shows Lula leading the way on 48% of voting intentions, with Bolsonaro lagging behind on 34%.
In the video, Gayer says that “not a single person with an ounce of intelligence believes in Datafolha” and challenges the decision by a judge that granted a request by the Workers' Party to block the publication of a Datafolha poll on the contest for the state government of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil, because of methodological inconsistencies. Gayer’s video was published on August 24 and has received more than 40,000 interactions, 28,000 likes, and 9,000 shares.
Agência Pública’s investigation found that a majority of the 50 viral posts that were analyzed either sought to discredit traditional polling agencies (20%, 10 posts) or shared polls which predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro or put him neck-to-neck with Lula (38%, 18 posts). 12 posts, generally made by journalistic outlets, were considered to be neutral in character, while five posts were made by left-wing politicians who shared polls predicting victory for Lula. Of the remaining posts, four engaged with a different issue and one spread disinformation about the safety of Brazil’s electronic voting system.
In the second-most shared post about the electoral polls, Gayer claims that the traditional polling agencies “are trying to always show Lula in the lead and Bolsonaro rejected [by the electorate],” because “they need the public money to flow freely as it did in the past”. The influencer goes on to recommend a poll in which his preferred candidate, Jair Bolsonaro, is forecast to win the elections.
The poll in question was carried out by Grupo 6 Sigma, and was also reported on in a post on the pro-Bolsonaro blog Jornal da Cidade Online under the headline: “The electoral poll that the mainstream media is desperately trying to hide”. The blog post contained a link to Gayer’s video, which is monetized on YouTube and has already received more than 363,000 views and 89,000 likes. The influencer cited the poll again on a Facebook post he made a week later. Grupo 6 Sigma’s analysis has been registered with the Supreme Electoral Court (BR-04937/2022).
Facebook has also allowed the paid promotion of a survey about the presidential race, something that is an electoral crime in Brazil since Brazilian law prohibits “the carrying out of surveys related to the electoral process, during the electoral campaigning period”. The survey, promoted by a congressional candidate, asks: “Aren’t you sick of these polls bankrolled by the trash Globo Network [sic], which always show the thief [Lula] in the lead?”. The post was promoted at least four times on Facebook and Instagram, costing approximately 400 reais ($75) in total, according to data from the Facebook Ad Library.
“Bolsonaro is winning today in every state, because the people want him to continue!”, read the most-shared message on WhatsApp and Telegram, according to reports generated at the request of Agência Pública by the Eleições Sem Fake [Elections Without Fakes] project, carried out by the Federal University of Minas Gerais (UFMG). The message asks people to forward the text to at least ten contacts. “Show that you want to see someone honest sitting in the president’s chair of a renewed Brazil by passing on to your friends!”. On WhatsApp the text was sent 124 times by 105 different users and appeared in 87 groups, while on Telegram it appeared 28 times across 12 groups. The poll that the message purports to cite, however, does not exist.
— Read the full Agência Pública story by Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino in English here.
• Ukraine update: The Ukrainian army is moving forward and has liberated two more cities — Arkhangelske and Myrolyubivka — in the Kherson region in the south of Ukraine. Russian forces are now controlling less Ukrainian land than they did at the start of the war in February 2022.
• Bolsonaro and Lula to face run-off in Brazil elections: Brazil’s presidential election is heading to a second round after left-wing candidate Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva fell short of the 50% needed to avoid the runoff. A former president, Lula got 48% of the first-round votes and will face right-wing incumbent Jair Bolsonaro, who got 43%. Voters will return to the polls on Oct. 30 for the decisive second round.
• Burkina Faso coup: After being ousted in a military coup on Friday, Burkina Faso’s military leader Lt Col Paul-Henri Damib has formally agreed to step down. The country’s self-declared military leader Captain Ibrahim Traore has also accepted a conditional resignation offered by President Paul-Henri Damiba.
• UK government’s U-turn on top tax rate: The UK government, which came under fire last week for its new economic policies, has U-turned on its plans to scrap the 45% rate of income tax for higher earners. Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng had previously announced the plan as part of a package of tax cuts.
• Indonesia launches investigation into soccer stadium crush: Indonesia will establish an independent team to investigate the stampede at a soccer stadium that took the lives of some 125 people, including more than a dozen children.
• Hurricane Ian death toll rises: The death toll from hurricane Ian has reached 83 since it made landfall on Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday as a Category 4 hurricane. Officials have faced criticism over whether they mandated evacuations in time.
• Nobel prize in medicine: Svante Pääbo, a Swedish geneticist, has won the Nobel Prize for medicine for “his discoveries concerning the genomes of extinct hominins and human evolution.” According to the Nobel Committee, Pääbo “accomplished something seemingly impossible” when he sequenced the first neanderthal genome and discovered that Homo sapiens interbred with Neanderthals.
“Bolsonaro goes to second round with Lula with more votes than expected,” titles Brazilian daily O Estado de São Paulo after incumbent Jair Bolsonaro won 43% of the votes against leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s 48% — a much closer result than what opinion polls had predicted. With centrist Senator Simone Tebet in third with 4% and center-left candidate Ciro Gomes in fourth with 3%, the center electorate “will be decisive” in the run-off scheduled Oct. 30.
As a result of the largest ever avian flu outbreak, a record 48 million birds have been culled in the last year through Europe and the UK. Though the virus has mostly died out during the summer months in previous years, this outbreak has persisted longer and is more easily spread along bird populations.
Along the “new border” of Ukraine, annexation has just doubled the danger
Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of Ukrainian territories in a ceremony in the Kremlin. For German daily Die Welt, Stefan Schocher reports from a village just a few kilometers away from what is now the Ukraine-Russia "border" in Putin's eyes, where life continues amid constant shelling and the fear of what comes next.
💥 The remote village of Inhulka near Kherson in southern Ukraine is the center of a rural community. 1,587 inhabitants, as the village chief says, one school, one kindergarten, one doctor, two stores. Since March, nothing here is as it used to be. That was when the Russian army came to the village. The soldiers were there for two weeks. Today they have moved on, the front is about 20 kilometers away. Bullets are constantly firing around the village while life goes on. As in the nearby big city of Mykolaiv, rockets and shells from Russian artillery strike here daily.
🗳️ Mykolaiv is the region in Ukraine where Russia's war first came to a halt. A region in which the Russians had hoped for a rapid advance – but which stalled in the suburbs of Mykolaiv. But now there is a fear that Russia will "do something" after the supposed "referendums" that are taking place a few kilometers away. There is Kherson, one of four regions where such staged polls have been scheduled. The expected result came in the middle of the week — a yes to joining Russia. Moscow has announced that it will annex these areas in violation of international law — and then possibly consider acts of war as an attack on Russian territory.
🏘️ Across the street, Alla Mironova sits in her office on the second floor. She has just finished sorting humanitarian goods downstairs. She is the head of the district municipality of Inhulka. On the one hand, there is the shelling, she says. But above all, there are the consequences. There are no jobs. In addition, there are practical problems. For example, there is only one bus a day to the larger city of Mykolaiv, and not one every hour as in the past. The village of Inhulka has fared comparatively well. There was no fighting in the village, so there was no major damage. There is gas and, after two months of darkness, electricity.➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com
My appeal goes above all to the president of the Russian Federation, begging him to stop this spiral of violence and death, even out of love for his own people.
— During an address dedicated to Ukraine in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis has condemned Russia’s annexation of four regions in Ukraine and has for the first time made a direct personal appeal to president Vladimir Putin to stop the war. The Pope also called on Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky to “be open to a serious peace proposal.”
✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Sophia Constantino and Meike Eijsberg
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