The Brazil riot and January 6 attack followed a similar digital playbook, experts say

The Brazil riot and January 6 attack followed a similar digital playbook, experts say

The Brazil riot and January 6 attack followed a similar digital playbook, experts say

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On TikTok and YouTube, videos alleging voter fraud in Brazil’s recent elections have been circulating for days.


On messaging services WhatsApp and Telegram, an image of a poster announcing the date, time and location of protests against the government was copied and shared over the weekend.

And on Facebook and Twitter, hashtags designed to evade detection by authorities were used by organizers as they descended on government buildings in the capital, Brasilia, on Sunday.

A day after thousands stormed government buildings to protest what they falsely claimed was a stolen election, disinformation researchers are studying how the internet has been used to stoke anger and organize protest groups. extreme right before the riots. Many draw a comparison to the January 6 protests two years ago in the United States, where thousands of people stormed 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 Sunday’s far-right domestic terrorism, but also in the entire long process of online radicalization over the past 10 years in Brazil,” said Michele Prado, an independent researcher who studies digital movements and the Brazilian Far Right.

She said calls for violence had “increased exponentially since the last week of December”.

She and other disinformation researchers have singled out Twitter and Telegram as playing central roles in organizing the protests. In messages on Brazilian Telegram channels seen by The New York Times, there were open calls for violence against left-wing Brazilian politicians and their families. There were also addresses of government offices that protesters could attack.

In one image, which The Times found on more than a dozen Telegram channels, there was a call for “patriots” to gather in Brasilia on Sunday to “mark a new day” of independence. Underneath many of the posters were details of protester assembly times.

The “Festa da Selma” hashtag was also widely circulated on Twitter, including by far-right extremists who had previously been banned from the platform, Ms Prado said.

In the months since Elon Musk took over Twitter, far-right figures around the world have had their accounts reinstated under a blanket amnesty unless they break the rules again .

Ms Prado said disinformation researchers in Brazil reported the accounts to Twitter in hopes the company would take action.

Twitter and Telegram did not respond to requests for comment.

Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, said Sunday’s attacks were a “violent event” and that the company was removing content from its platforms that supported or praised attacks on government buildings in Brazil.

Protesters in Brazil and those in the United States were inspired by the same extremist ideas and conspiracy theories and both became radicalized online, Ms Prado said. In both cases, she added, social media played a crucial role in staging violent attacks.


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