05 May

Bolsonaro’s support group doubles down on negationist strategy, but opposition to Bolsonaro dominates debate on vaccine fraud

Updated 24 de May, 2023 at 4:22 pm

  • Pro-government profiles and entertainment pages accounted for 55.3% of the interactions on Twitter, highlighting the opposition to Bolsonaro;
  • Bolsonaro’s support group minimized accusations, denied illegalities and spoke of persecution, but that narrative is minor in the overall debate;
  • Conversations between Mauro Cid and Ailton Barros were mentioned by the left as an alleged proof of Bolsonaro’s potential involvement in a coup;
  • Pro-government politicians and progressive profiles emphasized the seriousness of the case, while Valdemar Costa Neto and Fabio Wajngarten stood out together with profiles usually aligned with Bolsonaro.

The investigation of Jair Bolsonaro in an allegation of immunization record fraud for entry into the United States led the opposition to the former president to dominate the digital debate on Twitter, associating the situation with what is seen as Bolsonaro’s impending arrest. The pro-Bolsonaro group represented a minority in the debate and sought to articulate a narrative minimizing, questioning and denying the accusations. The highlights were the usual profiles and names such as the president of the PL, Valdemar Costa Neto. Those were the findings of a survey by the School of Communication at FGV, which analyzed the public debate about Jair Bolsonaro on Twitter between May 2 and 4, 2023.



Map of interactions about Jair Bolsonaro on Twitter
Period: May 3 to May 4 at 5pm


Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV

Opposition to Bolsonaro (Red) – 38.3% of profiles | 49.2% of interactions
Pro-government profiles and news outlets in association with a negative debate about Bolsonaro had a higher volume of interactions, highlighting the events of the Federal Police investigation. With a positive view of the beginning of the investigation, the major actors in the group, @AndreJanonesAdv, shared the stages of the case and the possibility of Bolsonaro’s arrest. Other names in the political scene appeared in a secondary way, such as @gleisi, whose criticism of Bolsonaro had a high reach. News indicating the seriousness of the situation and the concern shown by allies of the former president were shared by the entertainment page @choquei, left-wing media outlets such as @brasil247, and by representatives of the traditional media such as @globonews.

Pro-Bolsonaro group (Blue) – 38.2% of profiles | 41.3% of interactions
The group defending Bolsonaro was formed by influencers, political allies and hyperpartisan media outlets, which mobilized around the central strategy of denying the seriousness of the situation. Profiles such as @brom_elisa and @jakelyneloiola minimized the accusations and compared them to issues described as “real” and “more serious”, such as alleged corruption episodes involving Lula and the recent return of a helicopter to drug trafficker André do Rap. The case was also seen as a “smokescreen” and a result of persecution against Bolsonaro by profiles such as the congressmen @lucaspavanato, @zambelli2210 and @gayergus, as well as @plnacional_. Political actors such as @fabiowoficial and @CostaNetoPL also defended Bolsonaro, stating that the former president claimed to have been vaccinated and that he is a reputable person. With strong relevance in the group, @terrabrasilnot and @atrombeta3 shared updates favorable to Bolsonaro, such as an alleged confirmation that he entered the United States legally.

Progressive entertainment profiles (Pink) – 13.7% of profiles | 6.1% of interactions
Progressive profiles and entertainment pages also showed a strong position against Bolsonaro and shared news and political comments in a comic tone, celebrating the investigation and the possibility of the former president’s arrest. While @siteptbr and @bchartsnet updated their followers on news about the case, progressive influencers such as @otaldebochado e @tiagosantineli made comment threads about the situation, highlighting aspects such as the name of the Federal Police operation, the involvement of Laura Bolsonaro and Michelle Bolsoanro in the case, and Bolsonaro’s emotional reactions. In the group, the journalistic satire profile @sensacionalista published content about the investigation with headlines such as “Circulation of fake news in Brazil drops 70% two hours after the seizure of Bolsonaro’s phone”.


Major terms related to Jair Bolsonaro on Twitter
Period: May 3 to May 5 at midday


Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: School of Communication, Media and Information at FGV


  • The analysis of the most frequent terms in the digital debate about Jair Bolsonaro indicated a prevalence of negative repercussion of the investigations and potential fraud of immunization records. The “Federal Police operation” was seen as a “falsification scheme” performed by “Bolsonaro’s gang”, and there were no significant counternarratives.
  • The repercussion of the events has given the case of tone of political victory. For the former president’s critics, the beginning of the operation and the arrests that have already happened indicate the seriousness of the situation and Bolsonaro’s impending arrest;
  • The involvement and arrest of the former orderly officer Mauro Cid was a highlight. His conversations with Ailton Barros about a possible coup will be a potentially relevant topic for the next days, and have been seen on the networks as alleged evidence of Bolsonaro’s involvement in the anti-democratic attacks on January 8, leading to the perception that “the noose is tightening” for the former president.