“It really works like a pyramid,” mentioned Nemer, whose research focuses on bolsonarism, disinformation, and social media, in addition to the “human infrastructure” behind political disinformation that spreads through WhatsApp. “On the high, you’ve gotten folks producing misinformation. Within the center you’ve gotten Bolsonaro supporters working like a swarm of bees to unfold misinformation on the platform. Mainly, it’s common Brazilians who’re a part of the teams the place this disinformation finally ends up, and so they in flip unfold it to different teams during which they’re.
Communities, Nemer fears, will make it straightforward for folks on the high to handle these misinformation networks.
Specialists like Nemer are proper to fret. When WhatsApp introduced in April that it will not be launching the function till later this yr, Bolsonaro was would have offended that the corporate didn’t launch it instantly. In July, federal prosecutors in Brazil would have requested the corporate to delay its launch till after the October elections within the nation to keep away from the unfold of pretend information and misinformation.
WhatsApp lastly rolled out the function 4 days after Bolsonaro’s defeat. When BuzzFeed Information requested if Meta waited till after the election to launch Communities, a WhatsApp spokesperson merely mentioned, “No.”
After this story was revealed, a WhatsApp spokesperson advised BuzzFeed Information that the function was not but accessible in Brazil and would not be accessible till January.
Over time, WhatsApp has carried out safeguards to sluggish the unfold of misinformation on its platform, akin to clearly labeling forwarded messages, a significant supply of misinformation, and proscribing the forwarding of messages to solely 5 teams at a time. Now the corporate is imposing an extra limitation: Customers can solely ahead messages forwarded to them to at least one group at a time, as an alternative of 5.
“We consider it will considerably cut back the unfold of probably dangerous misinformation in group teams,” a WhatsApp spokesperson advised BuzzFeed Information.
Nonetheless, Nemer is skeptical. “The thought – having a bunch of teams – is good,” he mentioned. “However what good are forwarding limits when now you can publish one thing to a single advert group and nonetheless attain much more folks than when you needed to ship a single ahead to a single advert group?”
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