Brazil police to probe allegations of election disinformation on WhatsApp

Fernando Haddad Brazil's presidential candidate for the Workers Party is 18 points behind his rival

Haddad, who became the candidate for the left-leaning Workers' Party after former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was banned because of a corruption conviction, alleged that hundreds of thousands of fake messages were already sent out in support of the far-right hopeful.

Brazilian media reported that well-heeled supporters of Jair Bolsonaro paid for messaging by third-party agencies, each paying up to 12 million reais (€2.8m) to spread tens of thousands of attack ads.

For its part, a movement called United Women against Bolsonaro said that they are united 'because a candidate for the presidency of the country, with a discourse based on hatred, intolerance, authoritarianism and backwardness, threatens our conquests and our already hard existence'.

WhatsApp said in a statement that it was taking the allegation seriously. Illegal under-the-table funding by companies could, if proven, lead to the disqualification of the Bolsonaro ticket, said attorney Guilherme Salles Gonçalves, an electoral law expert.

In Brazil, Social networking service WhatsApp has more than 120 million users, rivalling the reach of Facebook's main platform in one of the company's biggest global markets.

"There are no limits to this persecution", Bolsonaro, a newly-elected senator and a key member of his father's campaign, wrote.

Jamal Khashoggi death: Saudi Arabia say journalist was murdered
A member of the team then dressed in Mr Khashoggi's clothes to make it appear as if he had left the consulate. Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by the Saudi agents and his body cut up.

Haddad also criticised Brazil's electoral court on Friday. No details were given about the change.

Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman from a tiny party, had little access to public campaign funding or TV advertising, but his grass-roots campaign and outsized presence on social media helped him win 46 percent of the vote, almost forgoing a runoff. Flavio Bolsonaro tweeted Friday when he initially revealed his account had been blocked.

WhatsApp confirmed that it had blocked Flavio Bolsonaro's account for "spam behaviour" in recent days, for reasons unrelated to the Folha report.

Mr Haddad said the PT has witnesses saying Mr Bolsonaro asked business leaders at a dinner in Sao Paulo for funds to pay for the bulk messaging, which he described as undeclared campaign contributions. Jair Bolsonaro's campaign has frequently alleged that the mainstream media and others are working against the front-runner's candidacy.

FILE - A woman takes a photo with Fernando Haddad, presidential candidate of Brazil's leftist Workers' Party, after a celebration in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Oct. 12, 2018.

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