Messaging service Telegram and the Brazilian Superior Electoral Court (TSE) have signed an agreement with measures to combat disinformation through the Telegram app ahead of the presidential elections in October.
This is the first agreement tackling false information the company has ever signed with a country. It formalizes Telegram’s membership of a permanent program against disinformation in the electoral justice space, which had been announced in March, as part of the commitments made by the company to avoid getting banned in Brazil. Other companies, such as Meta and Google, are also part of the program.
The actions set out in the seven-page document will be enforced until December 31, 2022. The measures include the creation of an official TSE channel on the platform, which will be used to publish information about the elections. The company will also promote the new channel across its Brazilian user base.
In addition, Telegram will provide technical support to the Brazilian electoral authority to create a bot to answer questions from the general public about the election process. The messaging app will use a new functionality to flag content that is potentially false as well.
The agreement also includes the creation of an extrajudicial channel to enable users to report disinformation within Telegram channels, according to the Court. When content is reported, the app will conduct an internal investigation to establish whether the channel has breached the terms and conditions.
According to the Court’s president Edson Fachin, the agreement “places TSE once again in the forefront in terms of the global fight against disinformation ahead of the elections in October.”
Under the terms of the agreement, the TSE has also committed to providing Telegram with relevant information about how the Brazilian elections will unfold in the online space, helping the company improve its internal policies and develop good practices.
Ahead of what is predicted to be a heavily polarized election, social networking firms have started to announce that Brazil will be left out of major updates that may facilitate the spread of false information through their platforms.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp announced Brazilian users would not see some of the new features it’s introducing elsewhere, such as allowing a higher maximum size for group chats. The company also said in April that it would delay its Communities tool, a feature-rich replacement for group chats, which enables users to send messages to different groups at the same time.
Commenting on the reasons behind the postponement of the features, WhatsApp’s head of public policy Dario Durigan was quoted in the national press as saying that the decision to postpone the launch is “a precautionary measure” to avoid amplifying noise around the democratic process in what is a “complicated year.”