Brasília, Capitol riots followed similar playbook
On TikTok and YouTube, videos claiming voter fraud in Brazil’s recent elections have been recirculating for days. On the WhatsApp and Telegram, an image of a poster announcing the date, time and location of the protests were shared. On Facebook and Twitter, hashtags designed to evade detection by the authorities were used by organisers as they descended onto government buildings in the capital, Brasília.
One day after the thousands protested what they falsely claim was a stolen election, misinformation researchers are studying how the internet was used to stoke anger and to organise far-right groups. Many draw a comparison to the January 6 protests two years ago in the US, where thousands broke into the Capitol building in Washington. In both cases, they say, a playbook was used in which online groups, chats and social media sites played a central role.
“Digital platforms were fundamental not only in the extreme right-wing domestic terrorism on Sunday, but also in the entire long process of online radicalisation over the last 10 years in Brazil,” said Michele Prado, an independent researcher who studies digital movements and the Brazilian far right.
She and other misinformation researchers have singled out Twitter and Telegram as playing a central role in organising protests. On Brazilian Telegram channels, there were calls for violence against left-wing politicians and families, and addresses of government offices to attack. There was a call for “patriots” to gather in Brasília on Sunday to “mark a new day” of independence. The hashtag “Festa da Selma” was also widely spread, including by far-right extremists who had previously been banned from the platform, Prado said.
In the months since Elon Musk took over Twitter, far-right figures from around the world have had their accounts reinstated. Prado said that misinformation researchers have been reporting the accounts to Twitter.
Twitter and Telegram did not respond to requests for comment. Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said the company was removing content that supported or praised the attacks.
The protesters in Brazil and the US were inspired by the same extremist ideas and conspiracy theories and were both radicalised online, Prado said. In both cases, she added, social media played a crucial role.
The New York Times