'Stop the Steal 2.0': Facebook is fueling the spread of antidemocratic election lies in Brazil, report claims

'Stop the Steal 2.0': Facebook is fueling the spread of antidemocratic election lies in Brazil, report claims
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia, Brazil, on February 24, 2021.EVARISTO SA/AFP via Getty Images
  • A new SumOfUs report dives into Meta ads and posts expressing violent rhetoric and false claims.
  • The report compares it to the spread of "Stop the Steal" claims before the Capitol riot in the US.

Meta has profited off the spread of ads and posts propagating false claims about Brazilian election security and candidates, a new report from a social media watchdog agency claims, comparing it to the rise of "Stop the Steal" rhetoric that led to the deadly Capitol Riot on January 6.

The report, "Stop the Steal 2.0: How Meta is subverting Brazilian democracy," was published in early September by SumOfUs, a nonprofit rights organization that has previously published research calling attention to sexual harassment in Meta's metaverse platforms.

The report comes ahead of Brazil's first round of voting in October, as well as Brazil's Independence Day which took place on Wednesday, and which far-right President Jair Bolsanaro used to rile up partisan support ahead of the elections.

Bolsonaro, who has previously made false claims about election integrity and said he might not accept the election results this year, told his supporters to "swear to give my life for freedom," and "take to the streets for the last time" on Independence Day. The Brazilian leader is currently losing in the polls to opposition candidate Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, who previously served as Brazil's President from 2003 to 2010.

SumOfUs' analysis contains a number of examples of ads and posts on the Meta-owned Facebook that researchers identified from a batch of samples associated with popular hashtags, including ads that the report claims break Brazil's election rule that bans candidates from trying to acquire votes before August 16. The Meta-approved ads amassed a cumulative total of over 600,000 impressions, a press release for the report says.


One ad posted by political candidate Ellen Miziara that accrued 60-70,000 impressions, the report says, urged viewers to "take the streets" and said, "So let's fight! Let's fight for our country! On September 7 I'm going to the streets, are you coming with me?"

An ad posted by Bolsanaro's party that gained a couple of thousands impressions suggested that polls showing Lula ahead of Bolsanaro were fraudulent, the report says.

Other posts attack Lula. The report claims that Bolsonaro ally and political figure Otoni de Paula shared an ad, which garnered 20,000 impressions, claiming without evidence that the Brazilian "Supreme Court and Lula are conspiring to arrest Bolsonaro," the report says. An ad falsely alleged that Lula committed money thievery, according to the report, while another one linked Lula without evidence to the former mayor of Santo Andre Celso Daniel's assassination in 2002.

The report claims that far-right groups have also spread extremist rhetoric about organizing a coup on the popular Meta-owned platform WhatsApp, and the messaging app Telegram, which has long been a hub for right-wing extremists. SumOfUs researchers studied five Telegram groups for a day and parsed through 18,000 new messages, the report says, and found they mirrored WhatsApp content with "incitement to violence, references to military intervention and the glorification of violence."

The report urges Meta, which did not respond to Insider's request for comment, to exercise more extensive content moderation and improve its ad approval process.


Flora Rebello Arduini, SumOfUs' Program Director, called the rise of this rhetoric in Brazil "January 6th all over again" in the report's press release, and said "regulators the world over need to take urgent action, or we'll only see these kinds of attacks on democracy intensify."