Did Elon Musk and Twitter Contribute to the Brazil Attack?

As thousands of supporters of Jair Bolsonaro occupied government buildings in Brazil on Sunday, the role of social networks, especially Twitter, was highlighted once again.

“I hope that the citizens of Brazil can solve this problem peacefully,” Elon Musk said Sunday evening. Like the rest of the world, he discovered the footage sent from Brazil, where thousands of Jair Bolsonaro’s supporters stormed power buildings. The latter are still protesting the results of the last presidential election, which allowed the left-wing candidate Lula to take the post of head of state. In these hours of chaos, reminiscent of the attack on the Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump in the United States on January 6, 2021, observers could once again note the main role played by social networks.

If “Facebook” and “Telegram” are responsible for the rise of the extreme right on the Internet, this time it is “Twitter” that is at the center of the controversy. Although the platform has for some reason tried to limit hate speech, its takeover by Elon Musk played an important role in the events in Brazil. After the billionaire took control of the social network, many of the previously banned accounts were able to return. According to a BBC analysis, a number of prominent Brazilian Twitter accounts that spread rumors about the elections have been reinstated by Elon Musk. Accounts were previously banned.

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“Twitter staff may have favored left-leaning candidates”

Moderation in Brazil also practically disappeared after arriving on the platform. Citing Brazilian researchers, the Washington Post reports that Twitter has been used “especially” by “extreme right-wing circles of influence.” Since last October and after Lula’s victory, the former president’s allies claim that the elections were rigged. Elon Musk himself expressed his views on Brazilian politics last December. “I saw a lot of disturbing tweets about the recent elections in Brazil. If these tweets are true, Twitter staff may have favored left-leaning candidates.” He suggested that some of Twitter’s employees in Brazil were “politically partisan,” without providing details or evidence.

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Going even further, the South African billionaire fired the vast majority of Twitter employees in Brazil, keeping only sales staff. “Washington Post” writes that among those sent back, eight people installed in Sao Paulo have a mission to moderate online. Their role was to take action against statements that incite violence and misinformation. This team is broken.

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He is close to Trump’s allies

On other platforms, those who applauded the attack in Brazil were allies of Donald Trump. “It all stinks,” Steve Bannon said on his podcast, especially during the first round of the Brazilian election. “Lula stole the elections…Brazilians know it,” wrote several times on the website Gettr. He called the people storming the buildings “Freedom fighters” (freedom fighters), BBC News reported. Jair Bolsonaro’s ties to the Trump movement were highlighted in a November meeting between the former president and Jair Bolsonaro’s son at Donald Trump’s Florida mansion. The former Brazilian president was also in the United States at the time of Sunday’s attack.

According to Justice and Security Minister Flavio Dino, after several hours of chaos, security forces regained control of buildings occupied by hundreds of anti-Lula demonstrators and arrested more than 200 people. The area was cordoned off by the authorities. But the Bolsonarians were able to impose security cordons, their adopted symbol, the Brazilian football team wearing the yellow jersey of the Seleção for many. They caused considerable damage to the three huge palaces, which are modern architectural treasures and full of works of art. Lula announced that he will return to work at his offices in Brazil this Monday.

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