01 Feb

Number of videos about the coronavirus in Portuguese on Youtube triples in 4 days with a 500% increase

There are now 1.2 million posts on Twitter about the virus in Brazil, with 7.1 million interactions in links shared on Facebook

Updated 14 de February, 2020 at 11:16 am

As usual, there has been an exponential increase in Youtube videos about the coronavirus in Brazil, and among the most viewed (with hundreds of thousands of views) are apocryphal videos coming from unreliable (or non-medical) sources containing conspiracy theories or conclusions with no scientific basis when talking about the topic.

360 Youtube videos in Portuguese were identified until Tuesday (27) regarding the case, adding up to 3.1 million views. However, until 10 a.m. this Friday (30), there already were 1,137 videos, adding up to 18.6 million views, out of which 43 have more than 100 thousand views, and many of them contain lies that have already been denied by the authorities (such as the “information” that one person with the virus has already died in Brazil) or unsubstantiated assumptions, such as a discussion in a Youtube channel on whether the epidemic could be the result of an “implanted” virus in the Chinese population.

There is also a video speculating about the potential biochemical use of the virus in the context of international and local geopolitics. Both have more than 100 thousand views in the platform. Another video, with more than 200 thousand views, states that the epidemic is “out of control” in Brazil, demanding the carnival to be canceled. Other posts, with an alarmist tone and using no official information or bulletins, speculate about an apocalyptic outcome if the epidemic spreads across the world, making unsupported predictions.

Another video, with 182 thousand views, discusses whether “the virus is an international strategy to control overpopulation”, accusing the New World Order of spreading it. A video by the Esdras Prado channel states that there has been a death in Brazil due to the virus and accuses the government of omitting the “truth”. It has 23.5 thousand views. Other videos seized the opportunity created by the discussion regarding the origins of the contamination to criticize the Chinese population’s eating habits and to discuss “the role of the bat soup” in the situation.


Until January 21, the volume of debate about the topic in Brazil was kept low, with less than 10 thousand posts per day on Twitter. However, the debate increased dramatically after that day, reaching 341.5 thousand mentions in January 29. Until Friday (31) at midday, there were 1.2 million tweets in Brazil, with a strong emphasis on the xenophobic debate about the Chinese people, accusing them of eating “bat soup”. Two of the twenty posts with the most shares on the social network mention this topic, and 8% of the tweets mention bats:

Reply 1: These people make BAT SOUP, they were asking for it
Tweet 1: Bat soup may have spread the coronavirus in China

Reply 2: The Chinese are a disgrace, they eat bats, they eat phimosis, they eat dogs
Tweet 2: let’s have dinner

The impact of the coronavirus is even higher on Facebook: since January 14, there were more than 21 thousand links in Portuguese shared in the platform about the topic (among professional press websites, blogs and portals with no informative credit), adding up to 7.1 million interactions – the sum of reactions, comments and shares.

Most of the links that caused the largest impact come from the professional press, with information on the number of cases and the global spread of the epidemic, but the topic that stands out by a large margin is the speculation that the “bat soup” acted as a catalyst for the first infections. There were 2 thousand links on Facebook mentioning this topic, with 2 million interactions.

Among the 20 links with the largest volume of interactions, most are connected to Brazilian newspapers, but there are also posts from alternative vehicles with no source verification that fuel the alarmist tone and criticize China, accusing the country of lying about the spread of the coronavirus and, mentioning “Chinese sources”, making speculations with no confirmation by international public health organizations about the scale of the infection.

The discussion about the economic impact of the coronavirus has increased in Brazil

Among the many subtopics associated with the international coronavirus epidemic, the potential impact on the Chinese and global economy due to the issue has been highlighted in Brazil (with an increased level of concern for Brazilians) on Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. There already are 18 thousand posts this week associating the coronavirus with the dollar rise, export losses, and the impact on the recovery of the Brazilian economy. Falls in stock exchanges and shares account for 16% of the posts on the network, while the dollar rise is mentioned in 14% of the tweets, and the Ibovespa in 12%;

On Facebook, 383 links reproduce the impact of the coronavirus on the markets, adding up to 248 thousand interactions (comments, reactions, or shares). In addition to the stock exchange, the dollar rise and the discussion about how detrimental the ongoing spread of the virus will be to the Brazilian economy, links with a significant volume of engagement also talk specifically about the losses for agribusiness exports. On Youtube, one of the most watched videos about the coronavirus (with 160 thousand views) talked specifically about the “fear” that brought the markets down this week.

* The Digital Democracy Room is a project of FGV DAPP in Brazil in partnership with Chequeado, Linterna Verde and Ojo Público. It’s goal is to monitor and analyze the digital conversations regarding the electoral context.