A month after Global Witness exposes failings, half of tested disinformation ads still being approved

14th September 2022, London - With less than three weeks until Brazilians take to the polls in a tense Presidential election, disinformation is still able to be spread on Facebook, despite pledges by the social media giant following previous warnings by Global Witness. 

Last month, Global Witness submitted ten Brazilian Portuguese-language ads that contained election disinformation, and alarmingly, 100% of the ads were accepted for publication by Facebook. In a recent re-run of exactly the same ads, 40% - including one that suggested the TSE had rigged voting machines - were approved. 

In addition, Global Witness tested a whole new set of ads, with 50% also being approved by Facebook for publication, including those that discourage voters from turning out, casting doubt on Brazil’s voting machines and suggesting certain indigenous communities will have an extra two days to vote.

Especially concerning is that Meta once again failed to identify that the ads were posted from outside of Brazil from accounts that had not gone through its “ad authorisations” process – a requirement for any account posting election-related content. 

Jon Lloyd, Senior Advisor at Global Witness, said:

“It could not be clearer that Facebook is simply not taking its responsibility seriously  to stop the spread of disinformation about the Brazilian elections on its platform. These kinds of ads can have very real life consequences, at best discouraging turnout, at the very worst prompting violence in what is already an incredibly tense moment for Brazilians.”

“In the past few days a Bolsonaro supporter stabbed a Lula supporter to death. It is absolutely vital that Facebook does everything it can to maintain the integrity of this key vote; both for the good of democracy but also for the safety of those in Brazil.”

“In response to our previous investigation Facebook said it will act. We cannot afford any more empty promises. Facebook has got to get a grip on this problem without any further delay.”

In response to Global Witness’ original investigation in August, Facebook said they will “prohibit ads calling into question the legitimacy of the upcoming election” - a rehashing of an existing policy. Following this latest evidence Global Witness is again calling on Facebook’s owner, Meta, to:

  • Urgently increase the content moderation capabilities and integrity systems deployed to mitigate risk before, during and after the upcoming Brazilian election – and ensure that the moderators speak Portuguese and understand Brazilian culture. 

  • Immediately strengthen its ad account verification process to better identify accounts posting content that undermines election integrity.

  • Include full details of all ads (including intended target audience, actual audience, ad spend, and ad buyer) in its ad library.

  • Allow verified independent third party auditing so that Meta can be held accountable for what they say they are doing.

  • Publish their pre-election risk assessment for Brazil.