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January 8 and the Information Crisis in Brazilian Democracy

Tech Policy Press - 18 de janeiro de 2023

After the 2022 Brazilian General Election and the violent riots led by supporters of far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro on January 8th, 2023, the acute nature of Brazil’s political crisis highlights how tech and media power asymmetries have real consequences for the civic information space, and thus on the most marginalized groups in Brazil. Amid global concern about the necessity of accessible digital public infrastructure to foster a healthier internet, demands for artificial intelligence worthy of trust, and the contemporary debate about reparations in tech and media, Brazil’s case exposes the necessity of policies grounded in evidence-based research from the Global South and informed by participatory mechanisms.

The failure of big tech’s governance and policy mechanisms to to deploy basic interventions and prevent disinformation and hate-speech at scale are a springboard for anti-democratic actions. Evidence from Kenya and Brazil shows that systemic effects of big tech’s shoddy operations disproportionately impacts countries in the Global South because of power asymmetries. Companies such as Meta, Twitter, and TikTok, that reach billions globally, are failing in their duty to equally serve consumers around the world. A 2022 press release from the European Commission highlighted concerns about Meta’s decision to tie the social networking site (Facebook) to its online ads service (Facebook Marketplace). The trading conditions of ads-related data may be the future of platforms as they increasingly push boundaries of antitrust rules. Netlab, a research lab located at the Brazilian Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, launched a report based on open source methodologies highlighting which disinformation publishers profit from Google’s ad systems.


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