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Wednesday, July 13 • 13:46 - 15:15
Problematizing the role of social media on Brazilian street protests since 2013

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Location: PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01, 
Goldsmiths, University of London, Building 2
Campus Map 

Contributor: Nina Santos, PhD Candidate at Carism/Université Panthéon-Assas


The biggest protests since the democratization process of Brazil happened in 2013. Millions of citizens went to the streets to fight against the increase of the price of public transportation, but also to demand a higher quality of education and health systems, among other agendas. The FIFA World Cup that took place in the country in 2014 was also a main issue at the time. The lack of protagonism of the traditional social movements that used to mobilize the people to protest was a great issue at the moment. Not only the parties and worker unions were not the one’s organizing the demonstrations, but also the participants had a clear resistance of affiliating with these movements. They preferred a self-organization and anti-political parties discourse. For that, the constant and heavy use of social media was crucial.  

In fact, the 2013 protests in Brazil had some of the main characteristics pointed out by authors to explain this new form that the protest movements are taking: the importance of the individual action on the collective action (Bakardjieva, 2015); the role of the technologies of the self on the shaping of collective identities (Cammaerts, 2014); a more personalized form of participation (Bennet et Segerberg, 2012); the use of social media not only as a communication platform, but also as an organizing device (Kavada, 2003). 

After that, the wave of protests did not cease. After the tight 2014 Presidential Election, the people occupied the streets again, this time with a different political issue: the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. But the issue is far from being unanimous among the Brazilian people so, in fact, two different movements started to organize themselves: one pro and one against the impeachment.

We collected data from Facebook pages of the organizers of two massive protests that happened in December 2015. To identify the main organizers of the protest we searched a number of hashtags used during the mobilization and identified the organizations that posted more about the theme. The mobilization that demands Roussef’s deposition was organized mainly by three very recent movements called: Movimento Brasil Livre – MBL (Free Brazil Movement), Revoltados Online (Online Rebels) and Vem Pra Rua (Come to the Street).

On the other hand, the Roussef’s government has the support of a great deal of traditional social movement and worker’s unions in Brazil. We decided to collect data from de Workers Party page (PT), the page of the Unified Workers Union (CUT) and a new front created on 2015 and called Brazilian Popular Front (Frente Brasil Popular). Although the Frente Brasil Popular is a new political grouping, it is formed by very well-known and ancient Brazilian social movements.


The main objective of this article is to discuss the use social media by the recent political street protests in Brazil. Our main questions are: what are the similarities and differences between the use of social media by the pro and against impeachment movements in Brazil? How do they relate and or not to the existing political parties and current elected politicians?


We work with data collected from Facebook pages related to the protests of December 2015 to identify the uses of social media made by the organizers of the two protests and the way they relate or not to the political parties and the current elected politicians in Brazil. We do that using the affordances and constraints categories proposed by Cammaerts, 2014.


We identified that the pro impeachment movement used the social media in a much more intense way than the movement against the impeachment. Also, while the "pro movement" focused on disseminating ideas and mobilizing their supporters, the "against movement" had more posts willing to disseminate ideas and to record their actions. While the movement against the impeachment clearly relates to political parties - even if many of the supporters are not identified with these parties -, the movement pro impeachment declares itself nonpartisan and with no relation to parties. However, we did identify posts that quote elected politicians that supported and helped to convoke the pro-impeachment mobilizations. 

Future Work:

This paper is a part of my thesis. My next steps in not only improving the analytical framework by also applying it to a French case of protest to identify similarities and differences.


Bakardjieva, M. (2015). Do clouds have politics? Collective actors in social media land. Information, Communication & Society, (July), 1–8. http://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2015.1043320

Bennett, W. L., & Segerberg, A. (2012). The logic of connective action: Digital media and the personalization of contentious politics. Information, Communication & Society, 15(5), 739–768. http://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2012.670661

Cammaerts, Bart (2014). Technologies of self-mediation: affordances and constraints of social media for protest movements. In: Uldam, Julie and Vestergaard, Anne, (eds.) Civic engagement and social media - political participation beyond the protest. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, UK.

Kavada, A. (2003). Social Movements and Current Network Research. ... Social Movement Networks’, Corfu, Greece, 1–21. Retrieved from http://nicomedia.math.upatras.gr/conf/CAWM2003/Papers/Kavada.pdf

Wednesday July 13, 2016 13:46 - 15:15 UTC
PSH (Professor Stuart Hall Building) - LG01 Goldsmiths University, Building 2

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