Brazil breaks new ground in the global fight against fake news

By Robert Muggah and Mac Margolis

Published in Open Democracy

Even as the armed forces and police broke up the 8 January insurrection in Brasilia, carting more than 1,000 rioters off to prison, the Brazilian rumour mills spun into high gear. Not surprisingly, sympathisers of defeated incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro were convinced that the vandals were the victims. Social media and private messaging groups lit up with tales of egregious police abuse, arbitrary arrests, and detention facilities akin to “concentration camps”.

Brazil’s alt-right influencers borrow heavily from their US counterparts. Just as conspiracists in the US speculated that antifa and the deep state were behind the assault on the Capitol on 6 January 2021, some rightwing social media channels blamed the storming of the ‘three powers’ – the presidential palace, congress and the supreme court – on leftwing provocateurs, who they claimed had infiltrated the movement to defame it.

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