Bolsonaro and allies distort Facebook criteria by criticizing page collapse

Bolsonaro and allies distort Facebook criteria by criticizing page collapse

BRASILIA – By criticizing the Facebook page teardown, the president Jair Bolsonaro and their children distorted the criteria adopted by the company when making the decision, which, according to what was announced in the platform’s statement, was not based on the content of the published content, but on behavior considered harmful to the public debate.

Although the network of pages reached by the measure flirt with deceptive content and hate speech – including with previously removed publications, the Facebook he acted based on what he calls Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior (CIB), without pointing out whether the messages disseminated by the profiles were fake news or not.

© Gabriela Biló / Estadão
Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP)

“When we investigate and remove these pages, we focus on behavior, not content, regardless of who is behind them, what they publish or whether they are foreign or national,” says the official statement released on Wednesday, 8.

Facebook publicly defines rules of conduct for users to follow. Prohibited behaviors include “using multiple accounts”, “hiding the purpose of a page by misleading users about its ownership or control”, “impersonating”, “using fake accounts” and “artificially increasing the popularity of content”.

The Facebook poll pointed out cases in which maintainers of Bolsonaro’s support pages also controlled pages that passed for newspapers and were used to give flow to party content.

“Although the people behind this activity tried to hide their identities and coordination, our investigation found connections to people associated with the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and some of the employees in the offices of Anderson Moraes, Alana Passos, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Flávio Bolsonaro e Jair Bolsonaro“, informed the company.

The narrative of the Bolsonarists, however, has been that the company made the political decision to restrict conservative content and violated the freedom of expression of right-wing activists, a stance that it would not adopt with shares from left-wing users.

That’s what President Jair Bolsonaro claimed in the traditional live broadcast he does on Thursdays at the Palácio da Alvorada. He presented a series of publications made on social networks against him to point out supposed partiality of Facebook.

“In Brazil, it is left for those who are on my side, for those who are friendly to me. And it seems that the left is there posing as a moralist, as propagators of the truth,” said the president.

His children followed the same line in reacting to the blockade that affected employees and allies of the group. The deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro used social media to insist on the veto thesis of the posted content.

“Even without defining what a hate crime is, Mark Zuckerberg’s network has excluded several conservative profiles on Facebook and Instagram. Newspapers commonly don’t show posts containing the ‘hate fallacies’ – not least because if there was evidence there would be a crime. “, wrote.

The senator Flávio Bolsonaro hit the key of the supposed “censorship” against supporters of the president. “My solidarity with all the profiles that were unfairly censored by Facebook and Instagram – apparently for supporting President Bolsonaro,” he said.


The concept of false news is one of the most sensitive topics in discussions about initiatives to contain disinformation. And monitoring inappropriate user behavior is a way out of the platform to avoid attacks on content, something that can be interpreted as censorship.

Professor at the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ) and Director of the Institute of Technology and Society (ITS), Carlos Affonso Souza drew attention to the difference between behavioral and content analysis.

According to him, filtering behaviors can be more effective and less dangerous to freedom of expression than analyzing published content. As an example, he mentioned the functioning of spam filters in emails, which consider not the content of messages, but automation characteristics to block unwanted receipts.

“A lot of people think that Facebook removed the pages because of the content, but the root of the analysis is not in the behavior. In the act of creating fake accounts that feed back,” he wrote on Twitter. “The risk of coming up against freedom of expression when focusing on behavior – not content – is much less.”

Action by K-Pop fans sparked discussion about behavior on networks

A debate over the CIB took place in June, in the United States, when teenage K-Pop fans acted in a coordinated manner to deflate a meeting of President Donald Trump in Oklahoma.

There were criticisms of the coordinated action of the teenagers for possible violation of the rules of social networks in which they organized themselves to simulate seat reservations for the event – mainly, in the Tik Tok. Facebook’s cybersecurity director, Nathaniel Gleicher, analyzed the case and found no evidence that the teenagers were deceiving other users or using fake accounts for the protest. After the demonstration, the young people themselves appeared openly in their profiles to talk about the consequences of the act.

Although the action was coordinated, it was something that is part of political life and that could not be fought by the platform, concluded the director. “Based on public reports, there is no indication that people used fake accounts or acted in a coordinated manner to mislead users. Therefore, that would certainly not constitute CIB for us,” said Gleicher.

Members of CPI das Fake News requested information from Facebook about the dropped pages. Depending on the details of the responses, those responsible for the profiles may be called by the committee for clarification.

Among those affected is Tercio Arnaud Thomaz, special advisor to the Presidency of the Republic and former advisor to the councilman Carlos Bolsonaro, in the Rio Chamber. Considered one of the members of the so-called “hate office”, revealed by the Estadão in september, he works at the Planalto Palace.


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