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Fighting disinformation about Brazil's Legal Amazon and its defenders

This research is part of the actions of the Combating Misinformation Project about the Legal Amazon and its Defenders, which investigated pages and profiles that spread misinformation in the region from March to September 2022. An initiative by Intervozes – Coletivo Brasil de Comunicação Social and 10 other organizations, eight of which are from the Amazon. The objective was to map misinformation spreaders in the Legal Amazon to support the creation of strategic campaigns to combat misinformation and hate speech. In the survey, 70 social media profiles and internet pages or websites were identified using a participatory methodology together with a working group formed by local entities in the Amazon that deal with misinformation in their daily lives.

After mapping, it was possible to profile the disseminators of disinformation into three large segments based on their recurrences and approaches: right-wing organizations and activists, public figures with political representation and journalistic channels or companies. Finally, it was decided to choose pages based on criteria such as journalistic self-description and high visibility to deepen and seek to understand the dimensions that hate speech and disinformation take on digital platforms in the Legal Amazon. Portal Novo Norte do Tocantins, Vista Pátria do Rio de Janeiro and Terra Brasil Notícias do Rio Grande do Norte were the three pages investigated.

One of the main conclusions of the research is that the sites are more hyperpartisan than journalistic in the strict sense of the term, only publishing information that favors a certain party, political bias or candidate, generally disguised as “news”, however biased. Misinformation from these pages increased in the 2022 elections, strongly associated with political polarization. And it was also associated with hyperpartisan news that gained more space among its publications and shares on messaging platforms and groups.

In relation to agendas on the Amazon, the candidates who had the most visibility on the pages are local politicians allied with former president Jair Bolsonaro, who lost the 2022 elections, with the defense of economic agendas for agribusiness or mining activities. In addition to inaccurate data on deforestation and fires, in the few publications on the environment. The three pages investigated are financed by programmatic media subscription platforms or public resources that further boost their reach and lies.

NetLab UFRJ participated in the research by helping with the collection and analysis of data in partnership with Intervozes.

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