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Brazil’s Bolsonaro turns to Telegram as vote nears

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Mobile messaging and call service Telegram is being used in Brazil in particular by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's supporters, who see the app as a powerful too with virtually no restrictions on what users can say


Mobile messaging and call service Telegram is being used in Brazil in particular by far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters, who see the app as a powerful too with virtually no restrictions on what users can say – Copyright AFP PHILIPPE LOPEZ

Jordi MIRO

Like millions of Brazilians, @mara, a fervent fan of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, has turned to the messaging app Telegram as the country heads toward a deeply divisive election: “There’s no censorship here,” she says.

Similar to the 2018 election that brought Bolsonaro to power, this October’s edition is shaping up as an all-out war on social media, with disinformation as a powerful weapon.

Bolsonaro, who has had various posts blocked on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for violating their rules on misinformation, is eagerly encouraging his base to follow him on Telegram as the vote nears.

Founded by Russian-born tech entrepreneur Pavel Durov in 2013, Telegram is a crypted messaging app with virtually no restrictions on what users can say in messages.

That has won it fans in Bolsonaro’s camp, where other social media companies face accusations of censoring right-wing views.

It has also earned it scrutiny from the Brazilian authorities, notably the Superior Electoral Tribunal, which has tried in vain to get Telegram to cooperate in fighting disinformation in the run-up to the elections.

“Here, you can express your opinions freely,” said @mara, a 60-year-old teacher who asked her real name not be used.

The pressure on Telegram, she said, is “RI-DI-CU-LOUS.”

“That’s a DICTATORSHIP, it only happens in countries governed by dictators,” she told AFP via the app, which has been hugely successful in Brazil, downloaded on 53 percent of all cell phones.

Bolsonaro is facing an uphill battle to win reelection, currently trailing leftist ex-president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in polls.

Like his political role model, former US president Donald Trump, Bolsonaro is adept at rallying his base on social media, where the Brazilian leader has more than 45 million followers in all.

He faces a series of investigations for spreading false information on social networks, notably over his repeated claims of rampant fraud in Brazil’s electronic voting system, for which he has provided no evidence.

Bolsonaro has more than one million followers on Telegram, not including numerous fan groups with names like “Reelect Bolsonaro 2022.”

Lula, for his part, has just 47,000.

– ‘Cowardly’ –

Dubai-based Telegram proudly explains on its website that its chat data and encryption keys are deliberately spread around the world, in what is known as “distributed infrastructure.”

“Thanks to this structure, we can ensure that no single government or block of like-minded countries can intrude on people’s privacy and freedom of expression,” it says.

Its refusal to block content some consider dangerous has sometimes gotten it in trouble, including suspensions in several countries.

And its largely unmoderated platform, which allows groups of up to 200,000 members, is a potential viral breeding ground for false information.

Earlier this month, the Superior Electoral Tribunal signed an agreement with eight leading social networks to combat disinformation during the elections, including Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube.

Telegram was notably absent.

The court’s president, Luis Roberto Barroso, wrote to Telegram headquarters in December, asking for a meeting and warning that the app was rife with “conspiracy theories and false information about (Brazil’s) electoral system.”

He went on to threaten Brazil would suspend Telegram, “plain and simple.”

Bolsonaro said any such move would be “cowardly.”

– Specter of US Capitol riot –

Brazilian prosecutors are also investigating Telegram on allegations of spreading disinformation and hate speech.

“It’s a platform designed to dodge the law. Messages are stored on multiple servers, each in a different jurisdiction,” said Pablo Ortellado, a digital communications expert at the University of Sao Paulo.

Bolsonaro’s repeated allegations against the electronic voting system used in Brazil since 1996 are raising fears he will reject the election result if he loses, like Trump.

The specter of the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters — who were riled up in part on social media — looms large in Brazil.

“The fear is that if Telegram can’t be brought under Brazilian electoral legislation, false allegations of vote fraud can’t be regulated or contained,” Ortellado told AFP.

If Brazil does block Telegram, @mara has a back-up plan: she has already signed up for other apps, including Trump’s new Truth Social, which started rolling out Sunday.

“WE WILL NEVER GIVE UP,” she said.



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17 Content Options for Each Stage of the Sales Journey [Infographic]

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17 Content Options for Each Stage of the Sales Journey [Infographic]

Looking to formulate a better content strategy for 2023?

This will help – the team from Orbit Media has put together a listing of 17 content formats, and where they fit within the sales funnel which could provide some inspiration for your planning.

There are some good pointers here, with specific approaches that you can take at each stage of the journey.

Check out the full listing below – while you can read more on the Orbit Media website.

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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