Big Tech Platforms Remove Content Supporting Pro-Bolsonaro Rioters Who Stormed Brazilian Federal Buildings
Mateus Bonomi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Social media platforms revealed on Monday that they would remove content supporting riots in Brazil that saw demonstrators storm multiple federal buildings.

Thousands of supporters who backed former President Jair Bolsonaro in recent elections entered facilities hosting the South American nation’s legislative and executive branches. President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who assumed office last week, has vowed to punish individuals who destroyed federal property. Technology companies are now taking down material that supports the riots, according to a report from Reuters.

“In advance of the election, we designated Brazil as a temporary high-risk location and have been removing content calling for people to take up arms or forcibly invade Congress, the Presidential palace and other federal buildings,” a spokesman for Meta, which runs Facebook, told the outlet. “We are also designating this as a violating event, which means we will remove content that supports or praises these actions. We are actively following the situation and will continue removing content that violates our policies.”

YouTube, a subsidiary of Google, likewise told the outlet that the company is “closely tracking” the unrest and “removing content” that violates community guidelines. “Our systems are prominently surfacing authoritative content on our homepage, at the top of search results, and in recommendations,” a spokesperson said. “We will remain vigilant as the situation continues to unfold.”

Twitter did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Lula, a self-described socialist, defeated Bolsonaro, a populist conservative sometimes called the “Trump of the Tropics,” by a narrow margin during elections held in October. A justice on the Brazilian Supreme Court voided corruption convictions against Lula two years ago, restoring his eligibility for office. Documents leaked after Lula’s trial suggested that the judge in the case, Sergio Moro, improperly collaborated with the prosecution.

Bolsonaro, currently residing in Florida while reportedly facing investigations in his home country, has condemned illegal protests. “Peaceful demonstrations, in the form of the law, are part of democracy,” he remarked. “However, depredations and invasions of public buildings as occurred today, as well as those practiced by the left in 2013 and 2017, escape the rule.”

Telegram, a private messaging service, is working with the new government to identify and censor content. “Telegram is a platform that supports the right to free speech and peaceful protest. Calls to violence, however, are explicitly forbidden on our platform,” a spokesperson remarked. “Our moderators use a combination of proactive monitoring in public-facing parts of our platform in addition to accepting user reports, in order to remove such content.”

The protests came almost two years after supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, drawing a comparison between the two events from American commentators. The former commander-in-chief was suspended from major social media platforms following the incident; his account was recently restored on Twitter after the company was purchased by Elon Musk.

Cooperation between at least one social media platform and the Lula administration occurs after the Twitter Files revealed extensive collaboration between the company and various American federal law enforcement agencies. One set of emails provided by Musk to independent journalists showed that there was “an organized effort by representatives of the intelligence community” aimed at “senior executives at news and social media companies” to discredit “leaked information about Hunter Biden before and after it was published.”

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