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Capitol riots and Parler ban rile up Brazil’s far-right extremists

. Jan 13, 2021
Capitol riots and Parler ban rile up Brazil's far-right extremists Photo: Ascannio/Shutterstock

At the beginning of the week, social media platform Parler made it to the top of Twitter’s trending topics in Brazil after the network’s app was banned by Apple, Amazon, and Google. Popular among the American alt-right, Parler was adjudged not to have taken sufficient action to curb posts inciting violence in the U.S.

Soon after, Parler went offline. Supporters of Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro — who had helped promote the social network in the country — took to Twitter and Facebook to protest, speaking of a “plot to silence conservatives around the world.”

</p> <p>Far from just being made up of Bolsonaro-supporting netizens, the dissenting group also included the president&#8217;s three politician sons, members of the cabinet, and government-supporting congressmen.</p> <p>Many of these figures are already under investigation for spreading misinformation online about Brazil&#8217;s democratic institutions as well as organizing anti-democratic protests — such as those calling for the closure of Congress and the Supreme Court last year.</p> <p>Despite being seen as something of an online Wild West for the far-right — thanks to its lack of content restrictions — Parler is just one of many arenas in which Brazil&#8217;s far-right extremists congregate and converse. Instant messaging app Telegram is another prominent example.</p> <h2>The right migrates to Telegram</h2> <p>More and more users from Brazil&#8217;s far-right movement are <a href="https://brazilian.report/tech/2020/09/11/telegram-whatsapp-nubank-investment-payroll-tax/">ditching WhatsApp Messenger</a> and opening accounts on competitor Telegram. Cabinet ministers Ernesto Araújo (Foreign Affairs) and Ricardo Salles (Environment) — as well as federal representatives Bibo Nunes and Bia Kicis — are among the Bolsonaro supporters who have created or reactivated their Telegram accounts since last week.</p> <p>The president himself has created his own channel on the messaging app, which he <a href="https://twitter.com/jairbolsonaro/status/1349092202333544454">announced to his Twitter followers </a>on Tuesday evening.</p> <p>One of the possible motivations for this migration is WhatsApp&#8217;s imminent update to its terms of use and privacy agreement. Taking force on February 8, the new terms allow parent corporation Facebook to access an array of data from WhatsApp users, including their phone numbers, profile pictures, and IP addresses.</p> <p>Indeed, the switch may also be in protest of Facebook&#8217;s decision to ban outgoing U.S. President Donald Trump from its platform, following similar action taken by a host of networking apps. Mr. Trump was deemed to have incited last week&#8217;s violent protests at the U.S. Capitol by way of his social media posts.</p> <p>As a demonstration of solidarity with the U.S. president, a number of Bolsonaro supporters altered their Twitter profile pictures to use Donald Trump&#8217;s former avatar, Congressman Eduardo Bolsonaro among them.</p> <p>Indeed, his father, President Jair Bolsonaro, was the only head of state to support the invasion of the U.S. Capitol. Citing baseless claims of fraud in the U.S. and Brazilian elections, Mr. Bolsonaro said that Brazil would have an &#8220;even worse problem&#8221; if the country persisted with its electronic voting system in 2022.</p> <p>“Even more absurd than Eduardo Bolsonaro&#8217;s profile picture is the public stance of President Jair Bolsonaro and [Foreign Affairs] Minister Ernesto Araújo, in support of Donald Trump&#8217;s claims that the U.S. election was defrauded,&#8221; one Brazilian diplomat — who requested not to be named — tells <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong></p> <p>&#8220;[Mr. Trump] is leaving the government in a week. The ship is sinking but the Brazilian government is determined to go down with it. This is terrible for our diplomacy,&#8221; he adds.</p> <p>In a statement, Twitter declared that it has rules which determine the content and behavior permitted on its platform. &#8220;When these rules are violated, we will take the necessary measures. We have been increasingly proactive in detecting abusive content on the platform, without totally depending on the reports of individuals, so that potential violations may be corrected.&#8221;</p> <h2>Brazil&#8217;s new far-right putschists</h2> <p>The Capitol riots have instilled a new wave of putschist enthusiasm among Brazil&#8217;s far-right. <strong>The Brazilian Report </strong><a href="https://brazilian.report/power/2021/01/07/how-the-us-capitol-riot-incites-brazil-extremists/">revealed </a>that Brazilian extremist groups are organizing similar protests at municipal, state, and federal legislative assemblies for the end of this month, seeking to block the election of any of President Bolsonaro&#8217;s opponents to leadership positions.</p> <p>Bolsonaro-supporting politicians and bloggers — currently under investigation by the Supreme Court for spreading fake news — have encouraged said protests.</p> <p>&#8220;The conservative population around the world is watching what is happening [in the U.S.] and certainly this will give us a boost,&#8221; said right-wing YouTube Italo Lorenzon, during a broadcast discussing the U.S. Capitol riots.</p> <p><em>This article was updated on January 14, 2021, at 09:50, to include a statement issued by Twitter.</em>

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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