News

September 16, 2021

Survey analyses tweets attacking Brazil’s media

As part of its analyses of attacks on the media in Brazil, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and a local partner, the Rio de Janeiro Institute for Technology and Society (ITS-Rio), are publishing a survey of the behaviour of users of Twitter, the platform used for most of the attacks on the media and journalists in Brazil.

An analysis of half a million tweets using hashtags reflecting hatred of the media during a period of three months shows that supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro’s government are the main authors of these attacks and that their principal targets are, firstly, media outlets critical of the government and, secondly, women journalists.

 

Around 20% of these tweets came from suspected bot accounts (accounts used to distribute automatically generated messages), confirming the existence of a concerted effort to artificially amplify these Twitter attacks on the media.

 

More than half (51%) of the hateful tweets analysed during these three months were posted during a period of just 13 days, one in which the media were publishing several major stories critical of the government.

 

The study confirms that in Brazil, where the environment for journalists has deteriorated dramatically since Jair Bolsonaro became president, social media are one of the main channels used by Bolsonaro supporters for venting their anger and resentment.

 

During the three months that were the subject of this survey (14 March to 13 June 2021), RSF and ITS-Rio analysed the most widely-used offensive hashtags on Twitter, which was the platform used for 80% of social media attacks on the media in 2020 by President Bolsonaro and his closest allies (dubbed the “Bolsonaro system”).

 

The hashtags surveyed were #imprensalixo (rotten press), #extreamaimprensa (extremist press), #globolixo (rotten Globo, referring to the Globo media group) #cnnlixo (rotten CNN) and #estadãofake (fake news Estadão, referring to Estadão, a São Paulo-based daily).

 

The entire report by RSF and ITS-Rio (in Portuguese and Spanish) can be downloaded below.

 

Brazil is ranked 107th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.