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Facebook failed ‘appallingly’ to stop election lies, says human rights group

·2-min read
The social media company did not detect adverts containing disinformation about the upcoming Brazilian election  (AFP via Getty)
The social media company did not detect adverts containing disinformation about the upcoming Brazilian election (AFP via Getty)

Facebook failed to detect ads containing disinformation relating to the upcoming 2022 election in Brazil, an investigation has found.

Human rights group Global Witness said that it submitted 10 adverts containing false information about the Brazilian general election on 2 October, including one targeting indigenous groups that told people to vote on the wrong date.

The group said that it was particularly concerned by the manner the ads were submitted and accepted by Facebook. The Portuguese-language ads were submitted from outside of Brazil and paid for using a non-Brazilian payment method from an account that had not been verified by Facebook’s ad authorisation process.

The report follows similar criticism towards Facebook concerning elections in Myanmar, Ethiopia and Kenya, as well as recent US presidential elections and the 2016 Brexit referendum in the UK.

“Facebook knows very well that its platform is used to spread election disinformation and undermine democracy around the world,” said Jon Lloyd, a senior adviser at Global Witness.

“Despite Facebook’s self-proclaimed efforts to tackle disinformation – particularly in high stakes elections – we were appalled to see that they accepted every single election disinformation ad we submitted in Brazil.”

The group called on Facebook to urgently increase its content moderation capabilities and ensure that moderators understand the political and cultural context of the upcoming elections in Brazil. It also urged Facebook’s parent company, Meta, to allow verified third-party auditing of its platforms.

Facebook told The Independent that it has “prepared extensively” for the Brazil election but did not comment on the Global Witness investigation.

“Our efforts in Brazil’s previous election resulted in the removal of 140,000 posts from Facebook and Instagram for violating our election interference policies, and 250,000 rejections of unauthorised political ads,” a spokesperson said.

“We are, and have been, deeply committed to protecting election integrity in Brazil and around the world.”