Digital democracy Portugal

Disinformation beyond elections: The Portuguese case

Online disinformation is a problem that impacts more than just elections. Many countries are witnessing the growth in scale of disinformation as a tool to manipulate the public’s perceptions on public policy issues, push for an agenda, or polarize citizens. This new report written by the MediaLab (ISCTE-IUL) explores the role of disinformation in the context of the Portuguese parliamentary elections, covering the month leading to the 6 October 2019 election day as well as the three months following the elections, up to 5 January 2020.

The report shows a spike in activity on Facebook pages and groups posting disinformation narratives after the election period. In the sample, narratives associated with “corruption” and “shame” were more commonly associated with the pages and groups mostly associated with far-right parties competing for votes.

The report also shows examples of common strategies to deceive social media users during election periods: a false story saying that the Portuguese Prime Minister went on vacation during the 2017 forest fires first appeared in October 2017, but only became viral in the summer of 2019 before the elections. The narrative was spread after several months of silence were created and shared by pages and profiles associated with those pages into the groups, indicating a clear intent to deceive the public and influence their political perceptions.

This report is part of a project led by Democracy Reporting International in cooperation with MEMO98 and funded by Civitates.

Read more about the findings in the report. 


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