Fake news in Brazil – statistics & facts

The talk about fake news may, at times, make eyes roll in a mix of boredom and anxiety. Even the issue of unanimously defining, ‘what is truth?’ can become too overwhelming to be properly addressed. In Brazil, however, the lack of consensus about such a seemingly simple matter has evolved into a burden for both politics and business. In June 2020, when the Congress was expected to vote on a law to punish the spread of fake news online, more than eight out of ten Brazilians interviewed said the dissemination of deceitful content threatened democracy. As early as April 2018, over one third of companies surveyed in Brazil stated that they had become targets of fake news, whereas 69 percent of them expressed concern over the issue. The causes and responses to Brazil’s post-truth era entail access to education, trust in media, and the initiative to debunk hoaxes.

Trust and literacy

Approximately three out of four of Brazil’s 127 million internet users are on social media. Around one out of five of them think online social networks are among their most trustworthy news sources, while the level of trust in traditional media has been decreasing over the years. Concurrently, 29 percent of Brazilians aged between 15 and 64 years have difficulties reading and writing different types of texts. Literacy rates are even lower among people over the ages of 34, as well as among black and brown people – who, combined, make up the majority of the population in the South American country. Yet some are leaving perplexity behind and tackling fake news.

Lie and punishment

The Sleeping Giants movement reports whenever a company's advertisement is found on a website that features fake news, publicly inviting the brands to take down the ads in order to detach their images from suspicious content. This approach proves to be spot-on: four out of five internet users in Brazil believe that companies should stop advertising with any media platform that fails to prevent the spread of fake news. Whereas one out of five companies in Brazil has a department focused on monitoring misleading content, some public sector officials still struggle to handle it.

President Jair Bolsonaro – who often preaches the Bible verse, “the truth will set you free” – is found to have made over a thousand statements containing fake or distorted information since he was sworn in. With the vast majority of Brazilians supporting a new law to oblige social media companies to protect users from fake news though, alternative facts may no longer find in Brazil such a favorable environment for their dissemination.

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Fake news in Brazil

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