Noise of Moro exit drowned out previous political crises

and . Apr 24, 2020
Since taking office, Jair Bolsonaro has used Twitter as his principal bully pulpit, but what is Twitter actually saying? Photo montage: Rodolfo Almeida

Sergio Moro’s resignation from the Justice Ministry on April 24 generated the largest wave of political engagement on Twitter since social isolation measures began being enforced in Brazil over a month ago. More engagement than President Jair Bolsonaro’s most controversial televised speeches and last week’s firing of Luiz Henrique Mandetta from the Health Ministry.

Unique tweets about Mr. Moro peaked at 183,200 within a single hour. Out of all of Mr. Bolsonaro’s various statements before April 24, the highest engagement rate hovered around 113,000 unique tweets.

</p> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="moro splash on twitter" class="wp-image-37307" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1280w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <p>Measuring the atmosphere on Twitter is particularly important in the Bolsonaro era, as the Brazilian president takes many of his <a href="">political cues from social media reactions</a> to government moves. Networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp are where a significant part of Mr. Bolsonaro’s support and militancy is found — and Twitter has become a thermometer of political debate in Brazil over the past few years.</p> <h2>How we analyzed the data</h2> <p>We analyzed over 1 million tweets including the term &#8220;Sergio Moro&#8221; — or many variations — posted between April 17 and 24, through Twitter&#8217;s free API. The extraction code can be found <a href="">here</a>.</p> <p>The terms in the tweets were compared to two lexiconPT libraries, which relate various words in the Portuguese language with negative or positive sentiments. The algorithm was able to detect the overall feelings of 310,000 tweets. As it is still not possible to know exactly who a certain batch of tweets favors or criticizes, we created a classification manual for the 100 tweets that generated the most engagement — likes and retweets — divided between:</p> <ul><li>Mostly in favor of Sergio Moro</li><li>Mostly in favor of Jair Bolsonaro</li><li>Unfavorable to both</li><li>Neutral</li></ul> <figure class="wp-block-image"><img src="" alt="reactions social media twitter moro" class="wp-image-37308" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 610w, 1280w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /></figure> <h2>What is Twitter saying?</h2> <p>Most tweets mentioning Sergio Moro between April 17 and 25 contained negative content — mainly concerning his resignation or President Jair Bolsonaro himself. Of the 100 most-engaging tweets, more than half were in favor of Mr. Moro, and only around 10 percent were in support of the president. But the former minister was himself the target for strong criticism — mainly from the left-wing — which questioned Mr. Moro&#8217;s past as a judge, prior to his ascension to the Justice Ministry.&nbsp;</p> <p>The majority of the messages analyzed were negative. Of the 609,000 tweets, positive sentiment could only be identified in around 40 percent.</p> <div class="flourish-embed flourish-chart" data-src="visualisation/2084461" data-url=""><script src=""></script></div> <p>&#8220;Negative&#8221; tweets tend to be riddled with adjectives and harsh criticism, while positive tweets are more likely to use milder language and a tone of praise. This can be misleading at times, however, as the method cannot account for sarcasm, where users employ affectionate terms to mock an opposing position, for example.&nbsp;</p> <p>Posts with negative content are common on Twitter, as the social network has become the main medium for online ideological battles between the left and the right, but what stands out now is how wide the cleavage has become.</p> <h2>Losing followers</h2> <p>For the very first time since September 2017, Brazil&#8217;s head of state has <em>lost</em> Twitter followers. In the six hours between Mr. Moro&#8217;s accusations to the press and the president&#8217;s televised address to the nation, Jair Bolsonaro and his three politician sons —&nbsp;Senator Flávio, Rio City Councilor Carlos, and Congressman Eduardo — lost a combined total of 86,427 followers across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube, according to consultancy firm Bites.</p> <p>President Bolsonaro is still Brazil&#8217;s biggest social media influencer, however, with 6.5 million followers.</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <p><em>This article has been updated on April 27 with more comprehensive Twitter data.</em></p> <p>

Sérgio Spagnuolo

Journalist, data editor at Aos Fatos fact-checking agency and creator of Volt Data Lab, a data journalism company.

Renata Hirota

Renata Hirota is a Brazilian reporter.

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