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Social Media, Citizen Media, Online Tools Are Shaping Brazil’s Protests and Politics

July 1, 2013

By Raquel Recuero

What started earlier this month as a protest against the cost of public transportation has spread like wildfire across Brazil. One estimate said protests have taken place in 430 cities. The range of issues has grown too, including education reform, high taxes, healthcare and public corruption. I’m not sure there has ever been so much discussion about the country by so many people using social media – and it has created some instability for the government.

raquel24.banner.600To begin to understand the story that is unfolding, two colleagues, Fabio Malini from the Universidade Federal do Espírito Santo and Marco Bastos from London School of Economics and Political Science, and I started to monitor and collect online data about the protests and begin to conduct an analysis. It’s raw and events are still unfolding but I want to share some of the data in this post.

On June 17 and 18, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Brazil, especially in cities where games of the Confederation Cup were being held.

While the vast majority were peaceful protesters, there were clashes with police, and several people were beaten and arrested without a clear cause. Stories of people being attacked by police spread via social media and traditional media. The stories about police violence inflamed people all the more. Several hashtags emerged. Memes about the prohibition of “vinegar” (vinegar inhibits the effects of tear gas and the police started arresting anyone who was carrying vinegar) began trending. Fabio Malini explained part of this “battle of vinegar” in this post.

From the beginning, social media has played a key role. People have used Twitter to narrate the protests and to share how best to take precautions for personal safety. I plotted two graphs with the hashtag #protestoRJ used by Rio de Janeiro protesters during the June 18 event. The first graph (below) is from the beginning of the demonstration and the second one, more dense, shows activity at the height of the protest. They show how much people were Tweeting about the protest, taking pictures, creating videos, and spreading them online. Read the rest of the story at the Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.


From → Analysis, News

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