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Global Knowledge Network On Voter Education - learning from each other


Fake news has become a real problem for the exercise of democracy and freedom of expression within the information society. With the proximity of the october 2018 elections in Brazil, the debate about the publication and propagation of fake news comes to light, as well as its impact on the electoral process and its increasing polarization. The term indicates false stories that, by retaining the appearance of news stories, are spread over the media, specially over Internet, and are usually created to influence political positions. In fact, it contains false content, always with the intention of obtaining some type of advantage, financial, political or electoral.

The issue runs through the problematic of the dialectic between consensus and dissent, the limits of dissent, the forms of political organization in the perspective of public space and plural society. Other extremely current topic also arises, such as the emergence of the private sphere on the public, and the public relevance of the private sphere that demands the publicity of political and judicial debates.

With the advent of social networks and internet access, fake news promise to add particular difficulty to democratic debate and conscious voting. The propagation of untruths on elections is not a novelty; it always arises in an attempt to favor candidates, but the speed and scope of the diffusion of this type of content is now different, encouraged by the advancement of technology.

Dialoging with the ideas of Norberto Bobbio, communication was born with a perspective of eliminating human societies and invisible power. Thus, in Bobbio's words, democratic government is a promise to give life to the transparency of power, to power without a mask .

Freedom of expression, plurality of thought and access to independent sources of information constitute essential principles for the social control of State actions and for citizens to seek information on the various subjects in order to form their opinions and decisions.

In this context, the Superior Electoral Court of Brazil (TSE) has developed mechanisms of study and defense against the possibility of undue influence in the choice of political agents. One important action was the participation in a working group created by the Federal Police together with the Attorney General's Office to prevent fake news in the 2018 elections. Also worthy of note is the creation of the Internet and Elections Advisory Council by the Presidency of SE, to discuss what can be done to prevent the use and propagation of false news during the upcoming electoral process, to make research and studies on electoral rules and the influence of the Internet on elections, especially the risk of fake news and the use of robots in the dissemination of information.

The article 33 of the Electoral Court´s Resolution nº 23.551/2017 deals with the removal of content on the Internet, determining that "the action of the Electoral Justice in relation to content disclosed on the Internet should be carried out with the least possible interference in the democratic debate". And, in order to ensure freedom of expression and to prevent censorship, judicial orders of removal will be limited to those cases where, through a reasoned decision, violations of electoral rules or violations of people who participate in the electoral process are proved. As a result, the president of the TSE, Luiz Fux, received representatives from ten political parties to sign a term of collaboration for the maintenance of an immune electoral environment of dissemination of false news. In the agreed text, the parties undertake to maintain the environment of information transparency, so as to fail any practice or expedient regarding the use of false content in the elections, acting as collaborating agents against the dissemination of fake news in the 2018 elections. The president of the TSE said that the Court will count with several councils and the collaboration of Federal Police, social media platforms and the press.

Besides, the Minister of the Superior Electoral Court Sergio Banhos has ordered the judicial withdrawal of news items that have been pointed out as false references to a presidential candidate in June this year . According to him, on the agenda of the contemporary world, there is an inescapable commitment: ensure that the electoral process takes place on a regular basis, observing the constitutional requirements, so that effectively legitimate applications are the one those chosen. Likewise, the use of fake news is an ancient and effective mechanism for raising the reach of information and, as a consequence, weakening candidates.

The ideal of gradual renewal of society must come about through free discussion of ideas and the change of mentalities, because, as Bobbio says, only democracy allows the formation and expansion of silent revolutions. Progress is the result of the movement of will and work, and must be accompanied by the brakes of ethics and responsibility for the decisions made. The fake news issue and the brazilian complex political scenario renew the debate about what world we want, about dignity, freedom of speech and rights to development as goals to be pursued.