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Brazil's right wing attacks anti-fake news campaign

© AFP/File | A Facebook program to weed out fake news, launched in Brazil, has conservatives up in arms, with some saying it amounts to censorship

RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP) - 

An influential right-wing group in Brazil has lashed out against a fact-checking campaign launched by Facebook, saying the measure amounts to censorship aimed at stifling political debate.

Facebook, which is embroiled in scandals over fake news, Russian election-tampering operations in the United States, and the hijacking of data belonging to nearly 90 million users, has ramped up its fact-checking efforts.

For example, the social media behemoth has a partnership with AFP in France and with the Associated Press in the United States, aiming to flag, though not delete, suspect news articles.

The Free Brazil Movement (MBL), a right-wing and libertarian pressure group, branded similar work in Brazil with the Lupa and Aos Fatos agencies "censorship."

"The term 'fake news' is currently applied to everything disliked by the system, whether leftist, progressive, revolutionary or politically correct," one of MBL's leaders, Arthur do Val, said in a YouTube video.

"They want to smother rights," said another MBL leader, Renan Santos.

Staff at Lupa and Aos Fatos, specialized agencies hired by Facebook last week, also say they have been threatened directly.

"Personal attacks and putting out threats is completely unacceptable," the head of Lupa, Cristina Tardaguila, told CBN radio Monday, without giving more details about the threats.

"Everywhere in the world this type of checking tool has been calmly introduced. We've heard of attacks in the Philippines but nothing like those here," she said.

Alexios Mantzarlis, director of the US-based International Fact-Checking Network, used a column in Folha de S.Paulo daily to criticize pressure against fact checkers.

"I feel great concern on becoming aware of the attacks," he wrote.

Brazil is considered a major battleground for disinformation and fake news ahead of October presidential elections in which a far-right former army officer is running strongly in polls still led by the imprisoned leftist former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

© 2018 AFP