While WhatsApp is rolling out a slew of new features for its messaging app, Brazil won’t see some of them until later in this year’s elections.
The company Meta announced features such as the ability to react to a message with emojis, sharing files larger than 2 GB (a significant jump from the previous 100 MB limit), as well as doubling the standard maximum Size of group chats.
The group size feature increases the size cap from 256 to 512 members. However, this particular feature will be suspended for Brazilian users until the presidential elections that take place in October.
This follows an announcement by the company in April that it would also be delaying the launch of its Communities feature in Brazil. Postponing the launch of both features is part of a broader initiative aimed at tackling the spread of false information ahead of the election, although the messaging app will refrain from rolling out major features during the political campaign.
“As previously communicated, based solely on our long-term strategy for Brazil, [the larger group size] The functionality will only be implemented after it has been tested in other markets, according to the schedule previously published for Communities on WhatsApp,” the company said.
Earlier this year, an agreement was announced between Meta and Brazil’s Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), which includes measures to counter disinformation and the spread of fake news that could adversely affect the upcoming elections.
Back then, WhatsApp got involved in a handful of initiatives, like improving a chatbot being developed for the 2020 election. The messaging app was at the center of a scandal involving the country’s current president in the 2018 election, a case later investigated by the TSE, which could find no evidence of wrongdoing.
As part of the agreement, WhatsApp is also conducting seminars for TSE employees on how the app works. Similar agreements have been signed with all major social media platforms active in Brazil, including the other meta-platforms, Facebook and Instagram. After much controversy, Telegram – the platform of choice for Brazilian politicians accused of spreading disinformation – also agreed to cooperate with the Brazilian authorities.
Although the messaging app is delaying the rollout of certain key features in Brazil until after the elections, it’s still seen as insufficient to combat the spread of false information. When the company announced its strategy for Brazil, prosecutors questioned the messaging app about the possibility of delaying the launch of the Communities feature until 2023. The document warns of the risk of a “real setback to efforts to address potential abusive behavior”. associated with disinformation”.