The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Andrea Desky
Communications Manager

Brazil's insurrection directly aided by tech platforms, say campaigners

Researchers from SumOfUs had warned of attempted coup for months as platforms like Facebook, TikTok and Telegram allowed anti-democratic movement to flourish


Global campaign group SumOfUs has accused social media platforms including Facebook, TikTok and Telegram of enabling yesterday’s assault on Brazil’s Congress and called for an immediate investigation into their role in the crisis.

The 20-million strong citizens’ network said the companies had failed to heed months’ of warnings that their platforms were helping to grow an anti-democratic movement in the run up to the Brazilian presidential election, including by directing users towards pro-coup content.

SumOfUs researchers have been monitoring Brazil’s social media landscape since September 7 and, in a series of reports, highlighted the extent of electoral disinformation and violent content in circulation. Along with Brazilian and international partners, the group repeatedly called on social media companies to take immediate steps to tackle the problem in order to prevent a repeat of the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol. Key findings included:

  • On TikTok, five out of eight of the top search results for the keyword “ballots” were for terms such as “rigged ballots” and “ballots being manipulated”;
  • Facebook and Instagram directed thousands of users who entered basic search terms about the election to groups challenging the integrity of the vote;
  • Facebook was actively approving harmful ads that sowed doubt in the election results, including ads that specifically called for a military coup. These problematic ads racked up 615,000 impressions;
  • YouTube allowed Bolsonaro's Stop the Steal narrative to go viral on its platform, with videos promoting this conspiracy theory gaining more than 22 million views, and 2.3 million Facebook interactions.
Flora Rebello Arduini, Campaign Director at SumOfUs, said:
"This assault on Brazilian democracy can come as no surprise to social media executives, who were warned time and again that their platforms, tools and algorithms were directly aiding a violent uprising in Brazil. We’ve now seen this happen in two of the world’s major democracies — if governments fail to respond, more will inevitably pay the price."
SumOfUs is calling for a rigorous investigation into yesterday’s actions, including into the role of social media platforms in facilitating the attack on Brazilian democracy.

SumOfUs is a community of people from around the world committed to curbing the growing power of corporations. We want to buy from, work for and invest in companies that respect the environment, treat their workers well and respect democracy. And we're not afraid to hold them to account when they don't. Barely a day goes by without a fresh corporate scandal making headlines. From polluting the environment to dodging taxes - when left unchecked, corporations don't let anything stand in the way of bigger profits. In an age of multinational companies that are bigger and richer than some countries, it can be easy to feel powerless. But there is a chink in their armor. The biggest corporations in the world rely on ordinary people to keep them in business. We are their customers, their employees, and often their investors. When we act together, we can be more powerful than they are. Together, our community of millions act as a global consumer watchdog - running and winning campaign