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Political Economy of Disinformation

Disinformation and propaganda can be understood as economic activities associated with the so-called influence industry. The online disinformation ecosystem depends on the precarious conditions of production and regulation of digital communication, since the functioning of content recommendation and distribution systems on digital platforms not only allows, but also promotes and monetizes criminal content of various types, as long as generate audience and interactions. The lack of effective mechanisms to protect users makes these platforms favorable environments, often with financial incentives, for the promotion of scams, fraud and various types of crimes and manipulations.

Advertising is the basis of the business model of digital platforms, and plays a central role in the marketing strategy of permanent disinformation campaigns, which use microtargeting, repetition and amplification of conspiratorial, denialist and hyper-partisan narratives. Such campaigns can involve coordinated interactions between private sector agents, political actors, and organizations from society and the State, benefiting the platforms themselves and moving precarious markets for the production of content that circulates online.

In this line of research, we seek to bring togethersystematic evidence on the economic and political relationships that sustain the online disinformation industry. We seek to contribute with critical and empirical approaches to respond to the challenges of investigating these new propaganda and manipulation strategies. The projects in this line are dedicated to identifying, in disinformation campaigns, their sources of financing and monetization of content on social media and junk news sites, the actors and organizations involved, and the tactics of programmatic advertising and commercial manipulation of the socio-technical conditions of the internet in Brazil.

Studies in Progress

EcoJunk: mapping junk news sites in the Brazilian digital media ecosystem

The objective of this project is to study the strategies for production, coordination and online dissemination of disinformation in Brazil. To do this, we analyze the fundamental aspects of the political economy of junk news sites, such as the owners, forms of financing and multiplatform operation of these portals.

Anti-press disinformation: multiplatform analysis of traditional media defamation campaigns in Brazil

Delegitimizing traditional media outlets to compete for influence over public opinion is a key strategy in online disinformation campaigns, exploiting historical tensions between the press, politics and society. We analyze the main narratives, actors involved and impacts of this phenomenon.

Financing online disinformation: paid ads and monetization of disinformation campaigns

Digital advertising is at the heart of the business model of the world's largest media and technology companies. This project analyzes the possibilities and limitations in the transparency and auditing of this content, and investigates the harmful use of digital advertising to drive scams, fraud and disinformation campaigns.

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