Elon Musk’s Twitter has been a breeding ground for Brazilian fascists

Elon Musk's Twitter has been a breeding ground for Brazilian fascists

On Sunday, January 8, what seemed bound to happen happened. The supporters of Jair Bolsonaro, former Brazilian president beaten at the ballot box, attacked the country’s places of power, in particular in Brasilia, before being dislodged. And the images are reminiscent of those of the invasion of the Capitol in the United States, on January 6, 2021, by the Trumpist packs.

According to the Rest of World site, the new Twitter promoted by Elon Musk since his acquisition of the platform, a Far West of Free Speech where moderation seems to have been restricted to its bare minimum (or drawn according to the wishes of the boss), has had a certain role in the aggregation of these crowds hostile to the democratic vote.

Rest of World interviewed various observers and specialists in the field. According to one of them, Artur Pericles, a researcher at Yale Law School and ex-executive of the InternetLab in São Paulo, the takeover of the boss of Tesla at Twitter and the chaos that followed acted as a foot call for the most active fringe of Jair Bolsonaro’s electorate.

Like others, Artur Pericles has seen a noticeable follower gain from the most flammable accounts. “It could just be people who understand that what Musk is implying is that now that he’s in power at Twitter, things will be better for them”he explains.

In early December, the New York Times reported that since the platform changed hands, online hate speech has grown there in a way never seen before. There is no doubt no coincidence in these profound developments.

All right

To find out for sure, Rest of World consulted other experts and looked into what happened to some of the biggest accounts linked to Brazilian politics, ranked according to their political affinities, from the far left to far right.

“While it cannot be an exhaustive statistical work, experts believe that for some of the most important political or media-related accounts in the country, this list suggests that the Twitter acquisition has had the effect of boosting audiences. of the right versus those of the left or more liberal wings”writes Charlotte Peet for Rest of World.

A pro-Bolsonaro sociologist, Eduardo Matos de Alencar, tells Rest of World that this trend is only due to the abandonment of the shadowban of right and extreme right accounts in Brazil. According to him, the billionaire would have decided to come out of the darkness and put back into the algorithmic light the accounts that had been made almost invisible by the teams that preceded his takeover.

But if the media notes that the increased interest in politics during the election period partly explains the renewed activity on Twitter in recent months, takeover or not, the fact that it leans clearly to the right can only be explained by the fact that the platform appears again as a haven of peace and a place of organization for its most right-wing members, institutional as lambda.

And while accounts on the left, or defined as such by the outlet depending on the complexities of the Brazilian political landscape, have also seen growth in their follower numbers, the trend has been much less marked for them than for supporters of Jair Bolsonaro.

“Elon Musk rehabilitated profiles of very dangerous extremistsregrets Michele Prado, a researcher specializing in far-right currents in Brazil. This provides legitimacy to extremist content and, in the short term, provides content that further radicalizes people on the far right, people who protest outside military bases to call for a law-breaking coup. democratic.”

In short, the application in Brazil of the absolutist Free Speech advocated by Elon Musk is to be followed very closely by democracies everywhere in the world: they are perhaps not quite ready yet to master the snowballs formed by the endless streams of disinformation and calls for fascism from their enemies.