Brazilian administration attacks data journalist for reporting app that specifies ineffective medications for COVID-19:
The government says the journalist “extracted data improperly” — but the journalist acknowledges that he barely used a browser’s Inspect Element tool, reports Beatriz Farrugia.
Data journalism has been at the centre of a political discussion in Brazil for two weeks after President Jair Bolsonaro’s administration made testimonies against a data journalist — for extracting data from a web app developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Health to stipulate medications against COVID-19.
The TrateCov app was launched in January 2021 for Brazilian doctors. Specialists were told they would be able to enter a patient’s profile and indications into the app, which would then indicate medication.
Regardless, the data journalist Rodrigo Menegat analyzed the app’s source code and found that however of the patient’s indications, age and health circumstances, TrateCov demonstrated the benefit of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin — drugs with no scientific information benefiting their use in the treatment of coronavirus.
He declared openly his discovery on 20 January in a series of tweets. “Guys,” he wrote:
“I just put in the TrateCov app that my patient is a one-week-old newborn who has a stomach irritation and a runny nose. The app recommended chloroquine, ivermectin, azithromycin and everything else. Crime, crime, crime, crime.”
On the same hand, the other journalists and broadcasters sampled the app and came to the same outcome.
CNN Brazil reported that it mimicked a query for a baby aged five months, with indications of fever and nasal congestion. The therapy approved by TrateCov was chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.
Soon after the complaints, the app was eliminated by the Brazilian Government.
Accused of executing cybercrime:
Then on May 25th, during a public session of a parliamentary inquiry, Menegat was impeached for having perpetrated cybercrime by an official of the Brazilian Ministry of Health: Mayra Pinheiro.
The parliamentary investigation, emptied late last month, is examining the Bolsonaro government’s reaction to the pandemic. More than 461,000 people have died in Brazil so far.
Authorized by Brazil’s Supreme Court, the investigation is seeking numerous lines of inquiry, such as why the Brazilian government facilitated inadequate medications and why three health ministers were removed over the pandemic.
Naming the data journalist, Pinheiro said Menegat performed an “improper data extraction”.
“He was unable to hack,” said Mayra. “He did an improper data extraction. Hacking is when you use someone’s password, enter a platform, a system. The phrase is not hacking. Today we have the authorized testimony that evaluates it as inappropriate data extraction.
In another proclamation session to the parliamentary investigation last week the former Health Minister General Eduardo Pazuello said that the app had been “stolen and hacked by a citizen”.
After the announcements, the data journalist clarified that he had only used the browser’s Inspect Element tool to analyse the quotation protocol.
“As a data journalist and creator, I only evaluated the source code which was public and accessible on the website of the TrateCov app, saved on an administration server and available to any internet user mysteriously sufficient to validate on their own.”
“The protocol has in no way modified any content on the platform”, he added.
Since the announcements, Menegat has restricted his social media accounts to prevent online assaults by government supporters.
“I am shutting down my Twitter account for more than an evident reason, but I will be very pleasured to show who wants to know how to use the Element Inspector to access source code from any website in the world,” wrote the journalist.
Other Brazilian data journalists exhibited assistance for Menegat and disseminated content clarifying the procedure used to analyse the app.
“The contended hacking of the TrateCov petition was nothing more than a journalistic examination procedure already used in newsrooms around the globe,” said Daniel Trielli, journalist and investigator in media, technology and society, in an article published by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.