Fake profiles boosted Brazilian ex-president Dilma | 2018-03-21 | daily-sun.com

Fake profiles boosted Brazilian ex-president Dilma

Sun Online Desk     21st March, 2018 10:53:46 printer

Fake profiles boosted Brazilian ex-president Dilma


A BBC investigation has found that fake social media accounts and blogs were used to back the candidacy of Dilma Rousseff in Brazil during the 2010 election campaign.


Rouseff won the election and was later re-elected before being impeached on corruption charges. She and her party deny any knowledge of the fakes.


He looked like an ordinary guy. Armando Santiago Jr was - apparently - 56 years old, married, and lived in Pocos de Caldas, a small city in south-east Brazil.


He was also a staunch supporter of presidential Dilma Rousseff and the Brazilian Workers' Party (known by its Portuguese initials, PT). On the social network Orkut - the most popular in Brazil at the time - Armando described himself as "a Brazilian citizen outraged by the criminal actions of the opposition in the election campaign." It was one of many broadsides against the main rivals of the PT, the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB).


His influential blog was called "Seja Dita Verdade" ("Let the truth be said") and its stated mission was to transmit "transparent news".


"False e-mails against Dilma Rousseff are being spread," Armando wrote in one post. "I have, whenever possible, debunked them one by one in this blog."


But "Comrade Armando", as he was dubbed by other bloggers, was not a real person.


His blog and his profiles on Orkut and Twitter were administered by four people who were paid about 4,000 Brazilian reals ($1,400, £1,000) each a month to write and spread the Armando posts.


And Armando was not the only fake. During the 2010 election campaign, one company ran a network of false social media accounts in an attempt to boost the PT and Rousseff, according to whistleblowers inside the operation.


Meet the fakers


BBC Brazil interviewed three of the four people running the Armando blog. They say they were recruited by a political marketing firm based in Sao Paulo to carry out the work.


They say their job was to feed the blog with posts denouncing alleged rumours about Rousseff, as well as posts attacking her main opponent, Jose Serra, the PSDB candidate.


The blog also created false news stories which were spread by the team using other fake or "sock puppet" social media profiles - at least 131 of them on Twitter.


Although now, eight years later, the Twitter profiles are inactive, BBC Brasil has found that more than 80 of them still exist (in other words, they haven't been suspended or banned).


They include users like "Juliana Miranda", who wrote everyday tweets about her psychology course ("Freud is one of my passions") and others in support of the PT ("we want Dilma!"), in addition to retweeting Armando's tweets. Profile pictures were copied or stolen - in the case of "Juliana", from a Finnish blogger.


The tactics were replicated in later elections. Last year, BBC Brasil revealed that fake profiles and misinformation were used in Brazil during the 2014 election, when a Rio-based company paid about 40 employees spread across Brazil to create and feed thousands of fake profiles, which were sold as a service to politicians.


It's extremely difficult to gauge what impact, if any, the fake accounts had on the 2010 election, which was won by Rousseff. She won re-election four years later before being impeached on corruption charges in 2016.


Brazil's current president is Michel Temer, who was once her vice-president. And in October 2018, the country will face another election.