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Brazil asks WhatsApp to delay ‘Communities’ launch


BRASILIA, Brazil – Citing concerns about the spread of misinformation in their country’s upcoming election, Brazilian prosecutors are asking messaging platform WhatsApp to hold off on the debut of a new feature called “Communities.”

Communities will allow users to expand their messaging circles, reaching 2,560 people at once, and thus making content go more viral.

As Reuters reported Friday, July 29, the prosecutors said the extended reach of the new service is arriving at a time “when fake news about the functioning of institutions and the integrity of the Brazilian voting system could jeopardize the democratic stability of the country.”

The report said WhatsApp, which is owned by Meta Platforms, is popular among supporters of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection and trailing left-wing former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Meta already agreed to postpone the launch in April until after an anticipated run-off vote in October. However, the MPF – the federal prosecutor’s office – said that delay wouldn’t be enough to deal with “serious risks that an increase in disinformation can generate … in the last two months of the year.”

WhatsApp is installed on 99 percent of phones in Brazil, the MPF said.

A spokesperson for WhatsApp told Reuters the company will evaluate the best course of action for the launch and would reply to the prosecutors’ request.

The past year has seen WhatsApp test out two other new products in Brazil.

In May, WhatsApp vice president of Product Ami Vora said the company was running a pilot in Brazil “where businesses can get listed to Directory right inside WhatsApp,” with click-to-purchase options embedded directly into the chat stream.

One day later, news broke that the company was offering a new “Pay” button for users in Brazil and India, designed to make it easier for them to make payments. The button is available directly on a user’s contact card, letting them send money to friends, family and loved ones.



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