Friday, January 27, 2023

The attack on Brasilia was organized openly over the internet

MIAMI ( Associated Press) – The map was called “Excursion to the Beach” and was sent to more than 18,000 members of a public Telegram channel called “Caza y Pesca” in Portuguese.

But instead of advice for outdoor recreational walks, 43 points marked on a map of Brazil marked cities where organizers promised there would be a big “party” on January 8.

“Children and the elderly are not invited,” indicated the post posted on the Telegram channel, which was later deleted. “Only adults willing to participate in all games, including cops and robbers shooting, musical chairs, indigenous dances, chase and others.”

The post was among messages circulating on social media ahead of Sunday’s violent assault on the capital by supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro, who are trying to restore the far-right leader to power.

Now it is also a potentially important clue in a criminal investigation into how the attack was staged and how authorities failed to find any clues to a plot, like the January 6 attack on the US Capitol two years earlier. Full view executed.

And like the attacks in the United States, the riots in Brazil show how social media has also made it easier than ever for anti-democracy groups to turn online messages into offline action.

Live broadcasts of the mayhem on YouTube were viewed thousands of times before a Brazilian judge ordered the social media platform to remove the content. Misleading claims about elections and insurgency can also be seen on Twitter, Facebook and other platforms.

But even before Sunday’s riots, social media and private messaging networks in Brazil were flooded with calls for a last-ditch effort to overturn Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s October election victory that some officials seem to have ignored or overlooked. done.

Most conversations on the Internet refer to the meeting held in Brasilia’s Plaza de los Tres Poderas as the “Selma Party”, a pun on “the Jungle”, a Brazilian army rally.

Participants were asked to wear their own face mask to protect themselves from “pepper pie in the face”, or tear gas used by security forces. He was also asked to wear the green and yellow colors of the Brazilian flag, and not the red colors of Lula’s Workers’ Party.

“Get ready, guests, the party’s going to bomb”, prompting widespread publication.

“Everything was out in the open,” said David Nemer, a Brazilian native and professor and social media expert at the University of Virginia. “They listed the people responsible for the buses with their full names and contact information. They weren’t trying to hide anything.”

Still, it is unclear to what extent social media were responsible for the worst attack on Brazilian democracy in decades. On Sunday, gas terminals and refineries marked on maps marked “Excursions to the Beach” as the locations of a handful of far-right activists demonstrated.

Bruno Fonseca, a journalist at Agencia Publica, a digital investigative journalism outlet, has been following the internet activity of groups linked to Bolsonaro for years. Activists, he said, remain in a constant state of confrontation, although his frequent calls for mobilization are sometimes met with little success.

“It’s hard to know when or if something will come out of social media,” said Fonseca, who in a report this week tracked the spread of “Fiesta de Selma” invitations that appeared to be bots.

Still, he said, authorities could cross-check Internet activity with other intelligence-gathering tools to investigate, for example, an increase in bus traffic in the capital before the attacks. His inaction, he said, could reflect complacency or entrenched support for Bolsonaro among security forces.

A key question is why on the day of the chaos, Anderson Torres, a Bolsonaro aide who had just been named top security official in Brasilia, was reportedly in Florida, where his former boss had retired. Torres was immediately fired and Brazil’s Supreme Court ordered his detention pending investigation. Torres denies any wrongdoing and has said he will return to Brazil and defend himself.

Sunday’s violence followed a spate of false and misleading claims surrounding last autumn’s election. Much of that material focused on unfounded concerns about electronic voting, which sometimes included threats of violent retaliation if Bolsonaro lost.

One of the most popular slogans used by Bolsonaro supporters was the hashtag #BrazilianSpring, a term used by former Trump adviser Steve Bannon in the hours following Bolsonaro’s defeat by Lula.

“We all knew this Brazilian election was going to be controversial,” said Flora Rebelo Arduini, London-based campaign manager for SumOfUs, a non-profit organization that monitors extremist content before and after elections in Brazil. “Social media platforms played a key role in amplifying far-right extremist voices and even in calls for violent insurgency. If we can identify such content, so can they (companies). Inability is not an excuse.”

Brazil’s capital prepared for the possibility of further attacks on Wednesday by social media posts, such as a message circulating on Telegram calling for a “mega-protest to take back power”. But those protests had no effect.

In response to the criticism, spokespeople for Telegram, YouTube and Facebook said their companies were working to remove content calling for more violence.

“Telegram is a platform for free speech and peaceful protest,” Telegram spokesman Remi Vaughan said in a statement to the Associated Press. “Calls to violence are explicitly prohibited and dozens of public communities where such calls were being made have been blocked in Brazil over the past week, both proactively in accordance with our Terms of Use and in response to court orders “.

A YouTube spokesman said the platform had removed more than 2,500 channels and more than 10,000 videos linked to the elections in Brazil.

A company spokeswoman told The Associated Press that Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, has prioritized efforts to combat harmful content about Brazil’s elections.

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Klepper reported from Washington, D.C.

Nation World News Desk
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