09 Oct

Xenophobia takes over the networks after the 1st round with more than 2 million tweets mentioning the Northeast

by Sul 21

Updated 21 de October, 2022 at 11:31 am

According to Fabiana Moraes, a journalist, professor and researcher at UFPE, sometimes the media is “gasoline for the president’s Jet Ski”


During the vote tally for the presidential election last Sunday (2), the two major sides of the dispute took to the networks to comment the results, and one topic was dominant: the Northeast region. For the left wing supporting former president Lula (PT), the region represented hope for a turnaround and a potential definition in the first round; for Bolsonaro supporters, it represented the fear of defeat and the target of hate speech.

States that voted less for Bolsonaro in 2022 compared to 2018 in the first round



At the end of the tally, it was technically proven that the region registered the most significant amount of votes for the PT candidate. However, it is noteworthy that states where votes for Bolsonaro decrease compared to the first round in 2018 are located in other regions. São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais, in the Southeast region, as well as Rio Grande do Sul and the Federal District were the only states where Bolsonaro received fewer votes in 2022 than in 2018.



After the definition of a second round between the two candidates, the attacks and support for the nine states in the Northeast region intensified. Safernet, a Brazilian NGO that maintains the National Center for Complaints of Violations against Human Rights and the National Support and Guidance Channel on Internet Security, reported that, on Monday (3), it received 348 complaints of xenophobia, 232 of which were singular links. On election day, there were 10 complaints, of which 9 were singular, with one duplicate. There were 2,678,200 publications on Twitter about the Northeast region in a single week. At 8 pm on Sunday, there was a peak of 11,800 tweets per minute.

Left-wing influencers such as Felipe Neto, Juliette and Giovanna Ewbank mobilized the most significant interactions.



On the right, Rodrigo Constantino, Roger Rocha Moreira and General Heleno led the interactions.



The president and re-election candidate Jair Bolsonaro (PL) reinforced the narrative used by his supporters that the Northeast allegedly is home to Lula’s biggest electorate because it has more illiterate people. After suffering a retaliation, Bolsonaro claimed his data came from a news story by UOL Notícias, but implying a causal relationship that is not supported by facts.



According to Fabiana Moraes, a journalist, professor and researcher at the Center for Design and Communication of the Federal University of Pernambuco (NDC/UFPE), sometimes the media is “gasoline for the president’s Jet Ski”. “He is reproducing a prejudiced claim, and he is prejudiced, but sadly, we must admit that he is not doing that alone. Bolsonaro is the epitome of arrogance, impoliteness and intolerance, but a big part of the commercial media has walked beside him, even though it tries to hide sometimes. There is this double standard that serves to support fascism and xenophobia and, at the same time, passes as democratic, technical and objective.”

There is also a more explicit discourse, making attacks with no attempt to use supporting facts. “About this other group, I do not see it as something outside the curve. In my opinion, it is just a confirmation of more of the same. Of this support for Bolsonaro that takes root in this idea of superiority of a region that works a lot compared to a region that is ‘lazy’”, said Fabiana. “I think it could even be less ‘damaging’. Because in the first case you have this performance of democracy. In the second case, you have radical thinking showing its teeth as it always does, it is easier to identify and, therefore, easier to fight. In the second case, I think there is no talking to fascists, you also have to fight”.

To fight the first scenario, the researcher says there is a need for a movement of the media. “There are several ways to fight it, and one of them is responsible, engaged journalism that is not afraid to make concessions in the face of the fight against fascism. For instance, we just saw the formation of a wide front with Lula, Alckmin, Simone Tebet, FHC, Meireles, names in the center, names in the right wing and names in the center left, all together. And that was not an important topic for the Brazilian media. Maybe because of the fact that this wide front was not captained by the third way, which the media tried to inflate and failed. Once again, we are seeing a doubt between Lula and fascism. It is appalling!

Xenophobia, the discrimination based on origin, is a crime. According to the Supreme Court, when it happens on social networks, it is attributed to the Federal Jurisdiction, becomes aggravated, and the penalty changes from 1 to 3 years of imprisonment and a fine to 2 to 5 years and a fine. Also, as provided for in Law No. 7716 of January 5, 1989, as amended by Law No. 9459 of March 15, 1997:

Art. 1. Under the terms of this Law, crimes resulting from discrimination or prejudice based on race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin will be punished.
In the electoral scope, it is defined as a crime in the Penal Code, in an article included by Law No. 14197 of 2021.

Art. 359-P. Restricting, preventing or hindering, with the use of physical, sexual or psychological violence, the exercise of political rights to any person based on their sex, race, color, ethnicity, religion or national origin.


The Digital Democracy Room at FGV ECMI is an initiative to monitor and analyze the public debate on the internet. Currently, it has partnerships to help monitor politics on the networks in Brazil and in Latin America. This content was produced by the partner Sul 21.