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Like the election of 2018 which led to the election that brought Bolsonaro to the presidency, this election will be an all-out fight against social media, and using disinformation being an effective weapon.

Bolsonaro who has had several posts removed from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube because of their policies on false information, is eagerly urging his followers to follow his on Telegram in the days leading up to the election.

The company was founded by Russian tech-entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013, Telegram is a encrypted messaging application that has virtually no limitations on what users can send in their messages.

This has won it fans in Bolsonaro’s own camp, and other social media firms face charges of censoring conservative views.

It has also come under attention from Brazilian authorities, including The Superior Electoral Tribunal, which has failed to convince Telegram to work with them in battling propaganda in the lead-up to the election.

“Here you can freely be free to express your opinion,” said @mara, teacher of 60 years, who asked for her name to to be used.

The tension on Telegram She said that the pressure on Telegram will be “RI-DI-CU-LOUS.”

“That’s Dictatorship, and it’s only happening in dictatorship-ruled nations,” she told AFP via the app. The app is hugely popular in Brazil it is installed by 53 per cent of mobile phones.

Bolsonaro is fighting an uphill campaign to win another term, at present trailing the leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in the polls.

Much like his political role model the former US President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is adept at rallying his followers through social media, and Bolsonaro has a large following. Brazilian leader has over 45 million followers.

He is facing a string of probes for spreading false information on social media particularly over his frequent allegations of massive corruption in the electronic voting system of Brazil for which he has offered no proof.

Bolsonaro is a popular figure with more than 1 million fans on Telegram and Telegram, which does not include many fan groups that have names such as “Reelect Bolsonaro 2022.”

“Thanks to this structure, we are able to make sure that no one government or group of similar nations has the power to interfere with individuals’ privacy or right to freedom of speech,” it says.

Its inability to block content that some believe as dangerous has occasionally landed it into difficulties, including suspensions in a variety of countries.

and its mostly non-moderated platform, that allows groups that can have up to 200,000 people and is a possible viral place to breed fake information.

In the last month this month, in the last month of the year, Superior Electoral Tribunal signed an agreement with eight major social media platforms to fight election-related disinformation which include Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube.
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The president of the court, Luis Roberto Barroso, wrote to Telegram headquarters in December asking for an appointment as well as warning the application was full of “conspiracy theories and misleading information about (Brazil’s) election system.”

The threat continued to be made that Brazil that it would shut down Telegram “plain and easy.”

Bolsonaro stated that any such move could have to be “cowardly.”

Specter in US Capitol protest

Brazilian prosecutor’s office is also looking into Telegram for allegations of spreading misinformation as well as hate-filled speech.

“It’s an online platform that was that is designed to evade the law. The messages are stored on several servers, each one in different jurisdictions,” said Pablo Ortellado an expert in digital communication from the University of Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro’s numerous accusations against his electronic vote system that has been used for voting in Brazil since 1996 are triggering concerns that he might not accept the results of the election should he lose, as did Trump.
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The threat of the 6 January 2021, attack in the US Capitol by Trump supporters who were fired by the internet — is big in Brazil.

“The worry is that should Telegram isn’t placed under Brazilian electoral laws, the false accusations of fraud in the voting process aren’t regulated or controlled,” Ortellado told AFP.

If Brazil does decide to block Telegram the app, @mara has a backup plan in place and has already joined other apps, such as Trump’s Truth Social, which started roll-out on Sunday.