Facebook suspends ‘disinformation network’ linked to Brazilian president

Facebook has suspended accounts they say have been using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” to spread misinformation by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons (who are also politicians).

Reuters: Facebook suspends disinformation network tied to staff of Brazil’s Bolsonaro

Facebook on Wednesday suspended a network of social media accounts it said were used to spread divisive political messages online by employees of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and two of his sons.

The company said that despite efforts to disguise who was behind the activity, it had found links to the staff of two Brazilian lawmakers, as well as the president and his sons, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro and Senator Flavio Bolsonaro.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of cybersecurity policy, said the accounts were removed for using fake personas and other types of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” which violated the company’s rules.

He said there was no evidence the politicians themselves had operated the accounts.

“What we can prove is that employees of those offices are engaged on our platforms in this type of behaviour,” he told Reuters ahead of the announcement on the company’s blog.

The allegations by Facebook add to a burgeoning political crisis in Brazil, where Bolsonaro’s sons and supporters have been accused of running a coordinated online campaign to smear the president’s opponents.

The accusations have spurred a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation into so-called “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, which led to police raids in May on the homes and offices of Bolsonaro allies.

Bolsonaro, who is also under mounting criticism over his handling of the coronavirus outbreak, has said the court’s investigation is unconstitutional and risks establishing censorship in Brazil by policing what people can say online.

Sounds similar to Donald Trump.

Facebook said it has also suspended three other networks on Wednesday, including one it attributed to Roger Stone, a longtime friend and adviser of U.S. President Donald Trump.

Facebook has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to better police how political groups use its platform. Hundreds of advertisers have joined a boycott aimed at forcing the company to block hate speech on its site, and multiple employees walked out last month over CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s decision not to challenge inflammatory posts Trump.

Gleicher said his team had identified and suspended more than 80 accounts on Facebook and its photo-sharing site, Instagram, as part of the Brazilian network. The accounts had amassed 1.8 million followers, he said, and some dated back to 2018.

Researchers at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, who spent a week analysing the activity identified by Facebook, said they had found five current and former political staffers who registered and operated the accounts.

Some of those accounts posed as fake Brazilians and news outlets to spread “hyper-partisan views” supporting Bolsonaro and attacking his critics, said researcher Luiza Bandeira. Their targets included opposition lawmakers, former ministers and members of Brazil’s Supreme Court.

More recently, the accounts also amplified Bolsonaro’s claims that the risks of the coronavirus pandemic are exaggerated. The disease has killed more than 66,000 people in Brazil and Bolsonaro himself tested positive this week.

“We have known for a long time that when people disagree with Bolsonaro they are targeted by this machine that uses online disinformation to mock and discredit them,” said Bandeira.

Also sounds similar to how Trump operates.

And from Al Jazeera: Bolsonaro taking dubious drug after testing positive for COVID-19

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has continued to tout an unproven anti-malarial drug as a treatment for the new coronavirus after testing positive for COVID-19.

After months of downplaying the virus’s severity, the 65-year-old far-right leader announced on Tuesday he had been diagnosed with the highly infectious respiratory disease but already felt better thanks to hydroxychloroquine.

Hours later, the former army captain shared a video of himself gulping down what he said was his third dose.

“I trust hydroxychloroquine,” Bolsonaro said, smiling. “And you?”

On Wednesday, he was again extolling the drug’s benefits and claimed his political opponents were rooting against it.

“To those who cheer against hydroxychloroquine, but have no alternatives, I regret to inform you that I am very well with its use and, with the grace of God, I will live for a long time,” Bolsonaro wrote on his Facebook page.

Natalia Pasternak, a research fellow at the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Sao Paulo, said Bolsonaro was setting a “bad example”.

That’s nothing new.

Meanwhile, Trump is complaining about court proceedings against him in the US.

He followed that with a string of tweet rants.

CNN: Trump loses battle on financial records, but Supreme Court ruling buys him time

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked House Democrats from accessing President Donald Trump’s financial records, but ruled that the President is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor.

The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, all but ensuring that Trump’s financial documents, which he has long sought to protect, will not be handed over before the November presidential election.

Chief Justice John Roberts penned the 7-2 opinion in the New York prosecutor case, and was joined by Trump’s two nominees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito filed dissenting opinions.

“(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause. Our dissenting colleagues agree,” the chief wrote, noting that the court is unanimous that there is no absolute immunity.

He added: “We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”

So no absolute immunity for the president, but Trump seems a bit unhappy about it:

We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAUGHT…and nothing happens to them. This crime was taking place even before my election, everyone knows it, and yet all are frozen stiff with fear…

No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed – investigated everything…

Won all against the Federal Government and the Democrats send everything to politically corrupt New York, which is falling apart with everyone leaving, to give it a second, third and fourth try. Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.

This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!

This is a now familiar ‘poor me but I’m still great’ spiel.