Fueled by Social Media, Protests in Brazil Reach 200,000 Strong

Some 200,000 protestors have taken to the streets in the major cities of Brazil, in a political movement notable not only for it size but for its engagement with social media. Student protests that began in response to a R$.20 hike in bus fees have now spread across the country, mobilizing unprecedented numbers of protestors. According to Reuters:

As many as 200,000 demonstrators marched through the streets of Brazil’s biggest cities on Monday in a swelling wave of protest tapping into widespread anger at poor public services, police violence and government corruption.

Although Brazil has seen economic growth in recent years, and unemployment is at an all-time low, experts believe that the protests reflect the discontent of a growing middle class no longer willing to accept government corruption, incompetence, and brutality as the status quo. Many news stories have focused on the size of the protests, noting that this is the largest such movement Brazil has seen in recent memory. Here at MMXLII though, we can’t help but suspect that the sheer number of protestors is causally related to the movement’s extensive engagement with social media. Marches and demonstrations are being organized through social media campaigns and much of the documentation of the movement is happening on social media websites such as Vine and Twitter. The Wall Street Journal reports.

The hashtags #protestorj (the “rj” for Rio de Janeiro), #protestosp (São Paulo) and#protestobrasilia showed the nationwide scope of the demonstrations, which began last week over an unpopular local bus-fare increase.

One of the most viral images was a six-second video posted on Vine by Lucio Amorim, a marketing consultant in Rio, which was tweeted more than 9,000 times.

Even the official response is being broadcast through social media, with President (and former leftist guerilla) Dilma Roussef Tweeting her support for the activists, a story reported on by the Financial Times.

“Peaceful demonstrations are legitimate and a part of democracy,” she said on Twitter.

What’s your take on this news from Brazil? How would this story have been different fifteen years ago? Brazil isn’t the first country to undergo such upheaval in the years since the advent of social media – could a movement of this size and strength happen in the United States?

Photo from The Australian.

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