By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Facebook announced earlier this week, Wednesday, that after ‘a rigorous investigation’, it was removing those profiles and pages in an effort to reduce misinformation before the October general elections in Brazil. This happened just a day before a 19 percent drop in the company’s global value yesterday.
Facebook’s stock had an amazing year before Thursday, up more than 23 percent, but on Wednesday the company also reporter quarterly revenue was slightly under Wall Street’s expectations.
The details in the report is what seemed to send investors running. Executives warned that the company would invest heavily in privacy and security, and that revenue growth would most likely slow in coming quarters.
In Brazil, the intent to remove fake news was demonstrated, and most of the pages and profiles removed were linked to center-right movement called Movimento Brasil Livre – MBL (Movement Brazil Free).
“These pages and profiles were part of a coordinated network that was hidden by the use of fake accounts on Facebook, and hid from people the nature and origin of their content for the purpose of generating division and spread disinformation,” explained Facebook in an official statement.
Members of MBL protested. Camping outside Facebook headquarters in São Paulo City on Thursday, they wanted to talk to executives of the mega-social networking website about the removal of over 180 pages and 87 profiles linked to the movement.
“Pages that defend liberal and conservative ideas have been removed in the middle of the election campaign,” shouted one of MBL’s creators, Kim Kataguiri in São Paulo’s neighborhood of Itaim Bibi.
“Why did you do that? Who is benefiting from it?” continued Kataguiri as other members of the MBL set up tents on the sidewalk. According to protest organizers, they will remain outside Facebook headquarters until they are received by company executives.
Kataguiri says the movement wants ‘proof’ of misinformation disbursed by the websites, which the protester says has half a million followers.
“Show us a printed page with the fake news and we will leave [the area] immediately,” said São Paulo city councilman Fernando Holiday, who is also one of the founders of the MBL.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office in the state of Goias also wants answers. The office gave the U.S. company 48 hours to send them a list with all the pages and profiles removed and the reason for the exclusion of the content.
The larger issue for Facebook in Brazil and abroad was Thursday’s stock plunging by almost twenty percent, losing approximately US$120 billion for shareholders.