A new wave of Bolsonaro candidates for the National Congress will try to take advantage, in the October elections, of the fights and confusion stimulated by President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) and his allies. Names that gained prominence and popularity on social media and were welcomed by the extreme right for identifying with at least one of the many conservative flags that were pushed into public debate.
An example is the doctor Nise Yamaguchi (Pros-SP), blamed in the Covid CPI’s final report for its role as an advocate of “early treatment” with chloroquine and accused of being part of a “parallel cabinet” to advise Bolsonaro. Despite the more than 665,000 deaths and the government’s inefficiency during the health crisis, Nise maintained support in the medical profession and popularity to run for senator for São Paulo.
The doctor is one of the faces identified with denialism in Science, which is just one of the ideological flagships of the Bolsonarist right in recent years, as explained by journalist Bruno Antunes, author of the book “The dissemination of troll culture: the debate (or lack of it) in the Brazilian elections of 2018”.
“They raise these flags. Who is the anti-LGBT representative? Who is the arms representative? Who is the representative of the truck drivers or the family? Zé Trovão gets into the truck driver theme, Daniel Silveira gets into the ‘freedom of expression’ theme, whatever that means for them, and Maurício [Souza, ex-jogador de vôlei] became ‘gender freedom’, because for them gender freedom is the freedom to curse the other gender”, exemplifies Antunes.
Uma característica que une os novos candidatos, como Maurício Souza, afastado do esporte após uma série de postagens homofóbicas no Twitter, é a fidelidade a Bolsonaro e à agenda conservadora. Through public caresses and displays of affection, the ex-captain’s support quickly spreads in messaging app groups and on social networks, monopolizing attention and seeking to nullify the debate.
This is the assessment of Leonardo Paz Neves, political scientist and qualitative intelligence analyst at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV-RJ). “In the case of the group most allied to the president, there are half a dozen names that managed to quickly leverage themselves because of an interesting element, which is an inherent solidarity with groups that defend certain right-wing agendas”, he highlights.
Through campaigns that eventually have the explicit support of Jair Bolsonaro, his sons or ministers, reputations are being built and shaped to the taste of the president’s support base. All those who become defenders of the ideas put forward by the group become almost ‘heroes’ who fight in the name of the truth”, adds the analyst.
In this tune, lawyer Paola Daniel (PTB-RJ), wife and acronym companion of federal deputy Daniel Silveira, announced her pre-candidacy for federal deputy after the friction between her husband and the Federal Superior Court. Tércio Arnaud Tomaz (PL-PB), a member of the so-called “hate office” installed in the Planalto Palace to create fake news and attack opponents on social media, will run as an alternate for Senate candidate Bruno Roberto (PL-PB).
An immersion in the culture of ‘trolling’
After observing the behavior of people in the online gaming ecosystem, Bruno Antunes decided to study the characteristics and effects, in the 2018 presidential elections, of “trolling” (the expression originates from English and refers to humiliation, persecution and insults on the internet) . The theme would become his doctoral thesis at Universidade Metodista (SP), in 2019.
In surveys carried out on social networks, he observed that hate speech and insults, which characterize “trolling” and are initially fueled by the extreme right, ended up dominating the algorithms and generating what he calls an “exploit”. The term, taken from the world of video games, tries to explain the rupture of the system caused by the excess of posts on the same subject, which with the help of robots, the “bots”, oversizes the debates and monopolizes attention.
For Antunes, the points of contact between the real world and the magical universe are extensively explored by the far right in their conspiracy theories. “They start from the principle that everything is a big global conspiracy to overthrow their candidate, which is Bolsonaro. So this great collusion hides a truth that only they know, an even religious appeal,” he explains.
Another factor that influences the audience of potential candidates for public office is the “clumsy and involuntary” participation of the left itself, which, unlike its opponents, does not have a centralized and united organization. According to Antunes, the right takes advantage of the “cancel culture” when interacting in posts from those who actually want to fight or when they point the finger at someone who has had reprehensible behavior.
“But this united network of the right turns to the guy who was homophobic, for example, and says ‘come here and we’ll welcome you’, while the left tends to judge and segregate even those who think in a similar way”, opines the journalist. On the other hand, he also highlights the “late awakening” of leftist groups to the traps spread along the way and in the awareness of the importance of generating content capable of equalizing the debate.
Electoral justice put to the test once again
Despite the efforts of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) to sew cooperation agreements with large companies in the technology sector, such as Telegram, Facebook and Twitter, the virtual environment has not ceased to be a “land without law”.
Last Thursday (12), the TSE announced a cooperation agreement with the Spotify audio platform to combat disinformation. The company is committed to helping to identify profiles that spread fake news and also to redirect users to the Electoral Justice page, where it will be possible to obtain information from official sources about the election.
Lawyer and professor Rodolfo Tamanaha says he is optimistic about initiatives like this, or about the recent agreements signed with Whatsapp and Telegram for the defense of democracy. He believes that it is in the interests of the companies themselves to maintain credibility to remain competitive: “There is a legitimate interest in maintaining the perception that the platform is used honestly, fairly and legally”.
Tamanaha emphasizes that the legal system to combat electoral crimes in the virtual sphere already exists, as well as conducts are already typified and punishments are provided for violators. “The challenge really lies in enforcing these legal norms. I recognize that this is very difficult because the internet is a difficult place to monitor, even if you count on the goodwill of companies”.
If it is impossible to check the profusion of information that circulates every second in thousands of groups, forums and pages, the lawyer believes that the solution lies in continuing to invest in people’s education and awareness. “I don’t imagine that we have a silver bullet from the point of view of legislation that can prevent 200 million people from sharing information without reason, if they want to”, he points out.
Editing: Felipe Mendes