Digital democracy Brazil

New Report - Facebook and the Climate Divide: A Study of Brazilian Political Discourse 

The Project “Media and Democracy” is a partnership between Democracy Reporting International, the School of Communication, Media and Information from Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV ECMI), the fact-checking platform Agência Lupa, the Diversity and Inclusion Program and the Center for Technology and Society (both from FGV Direito Rio). Funded by the European Union, the initiative aims to strengthen Brazilian democracy and the integrity of digital spaces. The collaboration between partners includes digital media monitoring and analysis, information checking and the creation of a Council to serve as a public space for promoting positive conversations with the participation of researchers, civil society, the public and platform representatives.

Facebook and the Climate Divide: A Study of Brazilian Political Discourse 

Climate change remains a divisive topic in Brazilian politics. In 2023, the country witnessed extreme weather events, from record heat waves to intense flooding. As the year comes to a close, we examined how Brazilian politicians discussed climate change on their social media throughout this eventful year. Specifically, we identified which individuals and parties receive the most engagement and highlight the rhetoric and tones of the most popular posts and posters. 

Our study found that despite this year’s record weather events, climate change remained an infrequently-covered subject for most politicians. By examining thousands of posts by hundreds of politicians, including Senators and Federal Deputies, we found that many of climate-related posts were apolitical in nature instead, functioning as disaster-specific warnings to the public. Among the politicised posts, we identified a significant partisan division, with the Worker's Party being notably more vocal on environmental topics compared to the right-wing Liberal Party. Most concerningly, we observed several posts that received the most engagement were instances of climate scepticism or denial by opposition members of Congress. Read our full report to learn more about the metrics and topics surrounding climate change online in Brazil.

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A Battle Over Education: The Meaning of 'Indoctrination' in Brazil’s Parliamentary Front

In October of 2023, a group of Brazilian Federal Deputies officially launched the Parliamentary Front for the Defense of Education without Ideological Indoctrination. The Front, which consists of over 203 conservative politicians, has stated its goals are to “raise awareness among parents, educators, students, and civil society about the occurrence of ideological indoctrination in schools”. 

In their founding statute, the Front does not define what specific policies or school curriculums its members consider to be “indoctrination”. To better understand what signatory deputies mean by this term and which groups they hold responsible for indoctrinating schoolchildren, researchers analysed the social media posts of the Front's members over a period of 8 months.  

Our study reveals that the term “indoctrination” is primarily employed by the deputies to denounce the teaching or raising awareness of any subject they oppose, in particular those topics that do not conform to the deputies' conservative Christian values. The current Lula government, transnational organisations, the LGBTQIA community, teachers, and the media were all frequent targets of the deputies’ accusations of indoctrination. Rather than point to specific policies and curriculums, deputies often resorted to the use of anecdotes, disinformation, and baseless, sensationalist claims to justify the existence of a sinister plot to indoctrinate Brazil’s youth.  

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The Ethics Committee Dilemma: Gender Dynamics in Brazilian Parliament

Since its creation in 2001, the Ethics Committee of the Chamber of Deputies has archived the vast majority of cases brought before it. Until recently, the majority of referrals were against congressmen corresponding to the demography of the chamber (majority men).

In 2022, the trend reversed, with the majority of disciplinary referrals relating to women deputies. In this year alone, out of the 22 disciplinary proceedings brought to the Ethics Committee, 12 are against women parliamentarians. This imbalance reflects a growing concern among political commentators that the Ethics Committee is increasingly being used as a tool of intimidation against women legislators in Brazil's current polarised context.

This report aims to understand how the congresswomen respond to the referrals in their online presence (overwhelmingly viewed as an instrument of intimidation). For context, we outline the modern historical context of the Ethics Committee and how it has become a more common political instrument. Additionally, they show solidarity with each other for facing similar experiences. In addition, through their posts on Instagram, the majority of referred congresswomen receive considerable engagement when discussing the proceedings online.

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Unpacking the YouTube Debate Over Brazilian Congresswomen's Ethics Inquiry

An electrifying debate has swept through the online landscape around the disciplinary proceedings initiated against six Brazilian congresswomen. The online support and backlash faced by these Brazilian congresswomen entangled in ethics inquiries serve as a microcosm of the larger issues surrounding gender, diversity, and inclusion in Brazilian politics.

The proceedings, initiated on June 14, 2023, by the Ethics Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, accuse these parliamentarians of breaching decorum. What triggered this turmoil? Their scathing criticism of legislators who supported bill PL 490/7, better known as the "Temporal Framework Bill," which aims to delimit indigenous lands. During a tumultuous Congressional session on May 24, 2023, these congresswomen branded those voting in favour as "murderers."

The ensuing online discussions on YouTube have unveiled a profound polarisation in public sentiment, with messages of unwavering support and venomous hate speech battling for supremacy. Detractors, in a bid to undermine these congresswomen, have stooped to questioning the legitimacy of women in politics, launching attacks on their intelligence, appearance, and resilience in the face of the ongoing disciplinary process. These antagonistic comments frequently resort to gender, race, and appearance-based stereotypes, creating a distressing and misogynistic atmosphere around these female legislators. 

The stark polarisation witnessed in these online conversations underscores the urgency of fostering constructive and respectful dialogue in the digital arena. Read the full report now for more: 

Misinformation, conservatism, and transphobic narratives guided Brazilian anti-trans bills between 2019 and 2023 

From 2019 to 2023, at least sixty bills with anti-trans content were proposed to the lower house of the Brazilian Congress. Our report sheds light on the context in which these bills were introduced by analysing the main topics discussed in them and their subsequent online debate.  

Our study reveals that the main authors of these bills are predominantly white men, many of whom belong to congressional caucuses with a religious agenda. Among the bills analysed, those regarding the prohibition of non-binary language, the participation of trans women in sports competitions, and gender-affirming surgeries and/or hormone treatments were the majority. 

Yet, the keywords associated with these anti-trans legislative proposals, such as "woman/women," "man/men," "family," and "biological sex," reflect a conservative and binary discourse.  Our Twitter analysis reveals that the bills garnering the most attention from deputies are those concerning gender-affirming surgeries and the participation of trans women in sports. The phrase "gender ideology" is frequently invoked in these discussions. 

Read our report to understand in depth how bills with anti-trans content are debated in Brazil. 

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Groups with far-right ideological profile led the debate about transgender people on Facebook between 2019 and 2023 in Brazil

The vast majority of Facebook groups in Brazil that stood out for debating about transgender people were linked to the far-right and former president Jair Bolsonaro. Only one group represents the left side of the political spectrum. Our analysis found a significant increase in posts about “gender ideology” during 2019, but the quantity of these posts has decreased in recent years.

However, negative and hostile reactions towards transgender people and events highlighting their experiences persist. These posts often portray the defence of gender identity negatively and connect their political agendas of transgender individuals with the left. Our analysis observed the same for topics like abortion and feminism, which are also negatively associated with these discussions.

The posts found in Facebook groups with a far-right bias we examined in the report generally have a negative sentiment. Themes such as "gender ideology" and "gender-neutral bathrooms" are prominently featured, often with messages that contain disinformation about transgender rights and hate speech.

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Gender and women’s rights: examining mobilisations and online reach of gender discourses of presidential candidates in 2022

Brazil has made significant strides in improving women’s rights and addressing gender-related issues. However, the country still ranks low in gender equality indexes, and women continue to face discrimination and violence. Despite recent progress, Brazil has experienced a rise in conservative ideology, fuelling movements that threaten the gains for women’s rights and economic inclusion. 

As indicated in our previous report, women’s rights and gender issues were strong contributing factors to the highly contentious 2022 Brazilian presidential election. Candidates from all political backgrounds fiercely competed for online attention by stoking debate about violence against women, their access to education, and abortion, which, at times, increased their engagement levels, our latest report shows. 

Using sentiment analysis and quantitative analysis of engagement rate, the main findings of the second report reveal that while most candidates used negative words when discussing gender-related issues, Jair Bolsonaro’s gender-related posts received the highest levels of engagement on Facebook, corroborating other relevant studies that suggest far-right political leaders successfully use gender issues to mobilise support for their agendas by appealing to emotions and unifying supporters. Furthermore, almost half of Bolsonaro’s top 10 posts on the platform were related to abortion and/or referenced a “leftist” agenda and “gender ideology”. Read our latest report to learn how the candidates employed gender and women’s rights in the campaigning for the 2022 presidential elections. 

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From violence to empowerment: how candidates in the 2022 Brazilian presidential elections addressed women’s rights and gender issues

The 2022 Brazilian presidential election was highly competitive as two eminent and polarising candidates contested for the top elected position in one of the world’s largest democracies. To capture attention in a women-majority electorate, the top political campaigns pushed their agendas on women’s rights and gender issues into mainstream political discourse. 

Using qualitative analysis of each candidate’s official government plan and quantitative topic modelling of over 25,000 posts from Facebook and Twitter, this report sheds light on the importance of women and gender for Brazilian political discourse. 

Our findings reveal that out of all issues related to women and gender, violence against women was the most discussed political issue online. Empowerment and representation were also widely touched upon, with some candidates calling for action and solidarity and others showing deference and recognition of common demands. Finally, few candidates mentioned abortion, although Jair Bolsonaro mentioned it the most and negatively associated it with the “leftist” agenda. See the latest report from our “Media and Democracy” project to understand how women and gender issues impacted political discourse in the 2022 Brazilian presidential elections.


Gender and women_s rights on social media - Mobilisations, reactions and sentiment of posts made by presidential candidates in 2022 Download
From violence to empowerment: how candidates in the 2022 Brazilian presidential elections addressed women’s rights and gender issues Download
Far-right ideology and transgender people Download
Misinformation, conservatism, and transphobic narratives guided Brazilian anti-trans bills Download
Online Support on YouTube Trends for Brazilian Congresswomen Facing Ethics Inquiry Download
The Ethics Committee Dilemma Gender Dynamics in Brazilian Parliament Download
The Battle Over Education An Analysis of the Term _Indoctrination_ in Brazil’s Newest Parliamentary Front Download
Facebook and the Climate Divide A Study of Brazilian Political Discourse  Download

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