University of São Paulo: Political speeches broadcast on the internet have not contributed to improving democracy

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The speed with which the internet has conveyed political speeches, whether from the left or from the right, is seen mainly from social networks. Their impact on the political environment comes mainly from the dissemination of hate speech, or even from the dissipation of political ideas of the opposition. With that in mind, the Núcleo de Estudos da Violência (NEV-USP) has been issuing monthly newsletters, based on monitoring carried out on social networks such as YouTube, Instagram and Twitter. The project aims to observe the main issues that stand out in the networks throughout the official campaign period, and to verify how conservative discourses, attacks on institutions and human rights reverberate in this environment.

What was observed at first was that the content that had the greatest repercussion did not aim to contribute to the improvement of democracy and caused a certain “political intensification or deepening of political polarization”, as the researchers responsible for monitoring, Natasha Bachini, say. and Pablo Almada.

Today’s Brazil has “81% of the Brazilian population with access to the internet and, of these, more than 90% have profiles on social media. And one of the most frequent uses of these social media has been for information,” says Natasha. The population’s growing interest in seeking information about candidates and Brazilian politics itself were also taken into account.

The research methodology focused on the use of specific applications, aimed at extracting data from the media. The first report concerns YouTube, in which data were collected about the content presented through the videos, as well as the preferences of the users of this network. You can access it in full here .

first report
In an initial panorama, YouTube, which is a network that concentrates a greater volume of videos circulating on social media, presented a relevant performance of journalistic channels, such as the contents developed by UOL, TVT, CNN Brasil and Estadão, as well as videos produced by humorous channels with political content. In the end, more than 19 million views, 1 million likes and 160 thousand comments of electoral content were counted, using the YouTube Data Tools tool, searching for the term “2022 elections”.

The choice to start monitoring from YouTube was based on the impacts that content producers and the formats developed by the platform have on users. The freedom of creation in this space also makes it possible to generate more targeted content about the 2022 elections, which touches on misinformation.

Pablo Almada, one of the research developers and an associate researcher at NEV, also draws attention to the fact that “YouTube videos are always shared on other social media”, facilitating the dispersion of information and data. This makes YouTube a major impact engine in the 2022 election.

second report
For the construction of the second report, data collected from Instagram were used, collected through the Zeeschuimer extension, from the Digital Methods Initiative. The methodology chosen was based on scraping information from hashtags, since, in this network, content is directed from the tool. Based on the hashtags “Lula” and “Bolsonaro”, a sampling of around 1,850 posts was developed for each of the tags.

The data obtained pointed to a dominance of the themes associated with the candidate Jair Bolsonaro, and even an interdependence of the candidacies of the two presidential candidates ahead in the electoral race. And the impacts of the network are observed from the ease, both for the production of content and for the viralization of subjects, favoring the political marketing of the candidates.

“On Instagram, we can clearly observe some of those political communication strategies that were present in 2018, fomenting antipetismo, attacks on democratic institutions and criticism of the press. In addition to the resumption of Christian and conservative values”, adds Almada.

Upcoming reports and expectations
According to the researchers, the next social network to be analyzed will be TikTok, followed by Twitter and Facebook. With regard to TikTok, it has gained space and is a potential conveyor of diverse content, and, more recently, it began to regulate posts of political content.

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