Gabriel Pereira

Interview with Journalist Patrícia Campos Mello on WhatsApp and the 2018 Brazil Elections

As part of our research on WhatsApp as a crucial communication platform in Brazil, Iago Bojczuk and I interviewed the renowned journalist Patricia Campos Mello, who exposed the case of illegal bulk messaging in the 2018 Brazilian elections.

This is part of the background research for our upcoming research article (alongside Prof. Lisa Parks) on WhatsApp in Brazil, which analyzes two specific moments when WhatsApp’s role as a communication infrastructure became particularly visible and questioned (the shutdowns in 2015 / 2016 and the 2018 elections).

Last year, in our blog post “Zap Zap, Who’s There? WhatsApp and the Spread of Fake News During the 2018 Elections in Brazil,” we discussed how WhatsApp messaging was influencing the Brazilian elections amidst reports of misinformation and ‘bulk messaging.’ We have since continued researching the ways in which WhatsApp has been used in Brazil in recent years for an upcoming research article (co-authored by Gabriel Pereira, Iago Bojczuk, and Prof. Lisa Parks). We interviewed the Brazilian journalist Patrícia Campos Mello on her experiences investigating WhatsApp in the Brazilian elections in order to further understand how WhatsApp’s influence has been perceived and its effects.

Patrícia Campos Mello is an award-winning Brazilian journalist working at Folha de São Paulo (Brazil’s largest newspaper). In 2018, she became known throughout Brazil for reporting on the illegal bulk messaging by then-presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro supporters in the Brazilian elections. On 18 October 2018, the scandal first came to light through her news article entitled “Businessmen Fund WhatsApp Campaign Against PT.” Her investigation, which encompassed several articles, became a major topic in the elections, being addressed by presidential candidates, the national and international media, and having direct effects on the electoral process. Several investigations by federal prosecutors on WhatsApp are still ongoing. Since then, she has been harassed by hate messages and fake news on the Internet, as well as by lawsuits filed by the investigated parties.

Read the interview on the GMTaC website.

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