Facebook and YouTube Are Removing Posts Supporting Brazil's Capitol Riot

Meta and Google said that supporting the pro-Bolsonaro riots in Congress that broke out over the weekend violates their terms of service.

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A Bolsonaro supporter in Brazil's Congress
Photo: Eraldo Peres (AP)

Facebook and YouTube are removing content supporting or praising the riots from anti-democratic protestors that broke out in Brazil’s capital over the weekend. Supporters of Brazil’s far-right former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the government buildings in Brasilia, leaving a wake of destruction behind them.

The riots mirror the one that took place in the U.S. on January 6, 2021 following Joe Biden’s presidential win over former President Donald Trump.

Footage and comments supporting the protestor’s actions were shared on Facebook and YouTube in the wake of the riot, and Facebook’s parent company Meta and YouTube’s parent company Google responded to the content, saying they are actively removing the posts.

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A Meta spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo, “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.”

He continued, “We’re also designating this as a violating event, which means we will remove content that supports or praises these actions. We’re cooperating with Brazilian authorities and will continue removing content that violates our policies.”

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Ivy Choi, a Google spokesperson, said in an email to Gizmodo that the company is “closely tracking the situation in Brazil” and has been removing any content that violates the Community Guidelines which includes “livestreams and videos supporting or praising the attacks by inciting others to commit violent acts.

“Our systems are prominently surfacing authoritative content on our homepage, at the top of search results, and in recommendations,” and shared that any advertisements that promote or incite violence are being removed. She added, “We’ll remain vigilant as the situation continues to unfold.”

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YouTube verified that of the more than 2,500 channels and more than 10,000 videos removed for support for the riot, 84% of them were taken down prior to receiving 100 views. The videos contained content in the lead-up to the Brazilian elections and were taken down between March and November of last year.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of Bolsonaro’s supporters smashed the presidential palace windows, used a sprinkler system to flood parts of the congressional building, and ransacked Supreme Court rooms for more than three hours. Some protestors even called for military intervention to either remove da Silva from office or reinstate Bolsonaro as president.

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Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took the Brazil presidential office on January 1, effectively ending Brazil’s right-wing government for the first time in decades. Despite da Silva’s victory, Bolsonaro mirrored Trump by refusing to concede that he had lost and claimed the election had been stolen. His supporters flocked to social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Telegram, TikTok, YouTube, and Facebook to organize protests of da Silva’s win. Bolsonaro himself has decamped to Florida.

Facebook has been repeatedly criticized for allowing the spread of misinformation among its more than three billion and has been pressured to moderate the content shared on its platform.

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Although Meta has stated it would be proactive when removing content, users found ways around it, such as using the term “Festa da Selma” to alert patriots to their cause. The word “selva” is a military term for war cry, but by switching the “v” to an “m” and adding “Festa” which is the Portuguese word for “party,” aggravators were able to circumvent Facebook’s protocols, the Washington Post reported.