28 Feb

Coronavirus: first confirmed case in Brazil causes a new epidemic of debate (and fear) on the networks

In less than 48 hours, Brazilians have mentioned the disease more than 1 million times on Twitter, becoming the fourth country with the largest volume of debate

Updated 9 de March, 2020 at 5:01 pm

In less than 48 hours, Brazilians have mentioned the disease more than 1 million times on Twitter, for a total of 3.3 million references to the coronavirus since January 15 in the country – worldwide, there have been more than 15 million tweets since February 20, with Brazil in fourth place in terms of volume of the debate according to a research by the Department of Public Policy Analysis at Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP).

Twitter: Daily mentions to the coronavirus in Brazil
Period analyzed: January 15 until February 27 (12h)

On Facebook, there have been more than 31 million interactions on links shared about the coronavirus since January – and at the end of February, with the confirmation of the first case in São Paulo, the daily average of interactions increased from 100 thousand per day to 2.7 million.

Restrictions to fake news: on Facebook, none of the 50 links with the highest volume of shares since February 24 published conspiratorial or false content regarding the advances of the epidemic, with the full presence of vehicles of the traditional press among the publications with the highest reach


Two major groups organized the debate on Twitter: one, with 34% of the interactions (pink in the map below), is formed by ordinary citizens who refer ironically to the coronavirus, with jokes and associations with carnival; the other (yellow), with 17% of the interactions, includes the official press. In a rare phenomenon on social networks, left wing and right wing groups showed low participation in the debate, breaking the strong polarization on the network

After the carnival holiday, Brazilians questioned the federal government’s ability to contain the virus due to the decrease in research and science funding in the country, and mentioned an increase in cases of dengue fever and measles, which were mentioned in more than 150 thousand tweets

New influencer: considering the low activity of right-wing politicians and influencers in the discussions about the coronavirus, for the first time in the Brazilian political scenario since last year, the official Twitter profile of the Ministry of Health was the biggest influencer. That same group of politicians claim that the press and the opposition are using the coronavirus to inhibit the March 15 demonstrations

Geolocation: São Paulo concentrated 27% of the mentions, followed by Rio de Janeiro (21%), the Federal District (13%), Minas Gerais (8%), Rio Grande do Sul (7%), Paraná (6%) and Pernambuco (4%). Brasília has the highest concentration of posts about the disease, but the city of Rio (12%) has more publications than the city of São Paulo (11%)

Fear and risk of infection: in 10% of the mentions in Brazil, the profiles comment about the possibility of rapid contamination by the disease, the fear of becoming infected or the need for more precautions, such as wearing masks and procedures to avoid urban agglomerations and people with flu-like symptoms

The impact of carnival: dozens of groups, representing more than 20% of the total number of interactions in the debate, jokes about the fact that the first confirmed case in Brazil happened during the festival, increasing the likelihood of contamination, or about the resistance of the Brazilian people to the virus considering the water crisis in Rio, the consumption of alcohol during the holiday, the police officer strikes and the chronic sanitation problems in the country

Twitter: Map of interactions about the coronavirus in Brazil
Period analyzed: February 15 to 27 (12h)

* Click and zoom to see the details