Businessmen Fund WhatsApp Campaign Against PT

With US$ 3 million contracts, practice is illegal because it is considered an off-the-books contribution

Patrícia Campos Mello
São Paulo

Companies are buy packages of en masse Whatsapp message blasts against PT, and they are preparing a large-scale operation in the week before the runoff.

The practice is illegal, because it qualifies as a campaign contribution, which by law is prohibited for businesses to do, and it is also off the books.

Folha has discovered that each contract is worth R$ 12 million (U$ 3.2 million), and one of the buyers is department store Havan. The agreements cover blasts of hundreds of millions of messages.

The companies supporting Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) are buying a service called "mass blasts," using the candidate's list of WhatsApp users or buying lists from agencies specializing in digital strategy. The latter option is also an illegal practice, because the law forbids purchasing third-party records, only allowing the use of lists of the candidates' supporters, with voluntarily given telephone numbers.

When they use third-party lists, these agencies offer segmentation by geographical region, and sometimes by income. They send their clients delivery reports containing dates, times and the blasted content.

Among the agencies offering this kind of service, there are Quickmobile, Yacows, Croc Services, and SMS Market.

Prices go from R$ 0.08 to R$ 0.12 (US$ 0.02 to US$ 0.03) per message sent when the list is the candidate's own, and from R$ 0.30 to R4 0.40 (US$ 0.08 to US$ 0.11) when the agency provides the list.

User lists are often illegally sourced from debt collecting companies or telephone companies' employees.

The agencies replied to Folha's inquiries saying that they can't accept new contracts until October 28th, the day of the election runoff. The reason is that they are already fully booked for massive WhatsApp blasts, paid by private businesses, in the week before the runoff.

Asked if he has done any mass blasts, Luciano Hang, Havan's owner, said he didn't know "what that is." "We do not need that. I just finished a Facebook Live. I didn't even boost it, and we reached 1.3 million people. What's the need to boost? Let's say I have 2,000 friends. I send them the link, and it goes viral."

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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