WhatsApp and the Brazilian Elections: Weapon or Tool?


Monday, February 4, 2019, 3:00pm to 4:00pm


1 Brattle, Suite 470, Cambridge, MA

Please join us for a conversation with digital HKS senior fellow, Yasodara Córdova, and Brazilian scholar and Ph.D. candidate, Sérgio Barbosa, on lessons learned from the use of WhatsApp during the 2018 Brazilian presidential elections. Before being used to share misinformation, WhatsApp, a tool that evokes trust and intimacy among Brazilian users, was used for civic engagement in the biggest strike Brazil has ever seen. What can we learn from these two very different use cases of WhatsApp?

WhatsApp and the Brazilian Elections: Weaponized Chat App or Civic Engagement Tool?

The "fake news" phenomenon poisoned the 2018 Brazilian presidential elections, following a worldwide trend. In Brazil, the misinformation campaigns took place mainly on WhatsApp, a tool that evokes trust and intimacy among users. Before being weaponized, the chat app was used for civic engagement in the biggest strike Brazil ever saw - and other occasions of collective resistance. What can we learn from the disparity between the episodes? How can the tool be explored as an asset for privacy-enabled conversations, and at the same time protect users from misinformation campaigns? What possibilities are being leveraged?

(This event will be video recorded.)

About the speakers:
Yasodara Córdova is Senior Research Fellow, data & misinformation at the Digital Kennedy School at Harvard and affiliated to the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard. She is part of the board of Directors of the Ciudadania Inteligente and board member of the Open Knowledge Brazil foundation. She worked at the W3C as Web Specialist, where she was one of the chairs of the Data on the Web Best Practices Working Group and participated at the at the Web Payments Initiative. She worked as a technical innovation consultant for the United Nations within the Brazilian government for more than eight years, developing civic participation tools and platforms. Before that, she worked with multimedia journalism and data visualization and won twice the biggest Brazilian prize in Journalism and Human Rights in Brazil. Yaso co-founder of the Calango Hackerspace and was part of the table of advisors of the CodingRights, an awarded think tank Latin American Group. Her interests are Digital Identity Management, Data Governance (AI, Big Data), Digital Democracy and Innovation.

Sérgio Barbosa is a Brazilian emerging scholar and a Ph.D. Candidate in the program "Democracy in Twenty-First Century" from the Centre for Social Studies (CES) at the University of Coimbra, Portugal. He is also an Erasmus+ exchange student at the University of Amsterdam, under the supervision of Dr. Stefania Milan. His theoretical framework is oriented to understand the evolution of political subjectivities and of the emerging forms of political participation vis-à-vis the possibilities afforded by messaging apps. He is a member of the Technopolitics - a "Latin" research network connecting Brazil and Ecuador with Spain, Portugal and Italy - and the Compolítica Group of the University of Seville (Spain). He's also an active member of "Big Data from the South Initiative". His research explores the role of WhatsApp for activism and social mobilization and focuses mainly on the following subjects: Democracy, Political Participation, Resistance, WhatsApp, Digital Activism.