Digital Democracy

Digitalization and the Public Sphere in Brazil

Online Disinformation and Questioning of Election Results

Fifteen months of posts about electronic voting machine fraud and auditable printed votes on Facebook

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This study analyzed posts with accusations of fraud in electronic voting machines and defense of printed auditable votes published on Facebook between November 2020 and January 2022. We sought to find the most frequent and popular posts, actors and links in terms of interactions over these 15 months, in another monitoring effort of the origins and dynamics of mobilization of the agenda that causes electoral mistrust and the questioning of election results on social media. This is the third research report investigating allegations of fraud in electronic voting machines developed by the project Digitalization and Democracy in Brazil, a partnership between FGV DAPP and the German Embassy in Brasília.

Electronic voting machine fraud. Electoral disinformation. Facebook. Brazil.



  • Between November 2020 and January 2022, there were 394,370 posts about electronic voting machine fraud and auditable printed votes, published by 27,840 accounts, including pages, personal profiles and public groups. These publications attracted more than 111 million interactions.
  • The messages appeared in each of the 15 months, with higher frequency in November 2020, the occasion of the United States presidential race and the municipal elections in Brazil, as well as in July and August 2021, in the context of the public discussion about Bill No. 135/2019 (the Printed Vote Bill) and the statements made by Jair Bolsonaro questioning the security of voting in past races and for the 2022 elections. The average was 888 posts per day, and the record of publications happened on August 10, 2021, with 10,619 messages posted on the platform.
  • The year 2021 was marked by an intense level of activity of groups and pages supporting printed votes, with the highest number of posts and the highest average interactions per account since 2014, indicating a large capacity of mobilization. Four months in 2021 had a higher average of interactions per post compared to October 2018, which was the peak year for that topic on social media. These numbers are strong indications that the questioning of election results has been growing in quantity and interaction on Facebook.
  • There were twelve accounts concentrating the highest volume of interactions (each having 1 million or higher) on Facebook posts about electronic voting machine fraud and printed votes, most of which were elected representatives, including President Jair Bolsonaro, the main voice in the cause. However, among those with the highest level of influence in the topic, the congresswoman Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP) discussed the subject the most, with 1,576 publications in 15 months.
  • In total, 23 accounts posted more than one thousand times about topics related to electoral mistrust on Facebook. Jair Bolsonaro was frequently mentioned in all these public pages and groups (whether to support or oppose him), particularly “Movimento Brasil”, with 11,856 posts, and “Bolsonaro 2022 ”, with 7,413 posts. Hundreds of other similar accounts also had high rate of publications about these topics.
  • Forty posts arguing that there was fraud in the electronic voting machine were the most popular, generating 6,809,193 interactions. Among the 20 most popular messages in this subgroup, 13 (32.5%) were made by Jair Bolsonaro’s page, attracting almost half of the interactions (3,227,981, or 47%).
  • More than 130 thousand posts contained internal and external links on Facebook. This type of content represented 23.9% of the interactions. These links circulated for up to 435 days. Most of the external links with the most interactions called for a public consultation of a legislative recommendation to implement 100% printed voting, as well as content for the mobilization about the Printed Vote Bill – this Senate link was present in 8,412 publications on Facebook.


1) Evolution of posts on Facebook

The volume of posts in the debate about electronic voting machines and auditable printed votes has had a continuous presence on Facebook over the past two years, with specific peaks at times when the issue appears in the public agenda in some form. Publications about the topic have grown since 2014, becoming central in the general elections of 2018 and very relevant in 2020, for the first time in a municipal race (RUEDIGER et al., 2020a). In the 15 months between November 2020 and January 2022, there was an average of 888 publications per day. The months with the most posts questioning the elections were November 2020, with 50,574 posts (12.7%), July 2021, with 69,943 posts (17.7%), and August 2021, with 94,317 posts (23.9%). November 28, 2021, was the day with the least publications (133), and August 10, 2021, was the day with the most publications (10,619).

Evolution of posts on Facebook about electronic voting machine Fraud and printed votes
Analysis period: November 2, 2020 to January 18, 2022

. Source: CrowdTangle | Elaboration: FGV DAPP

In general, between 2020 and 2022, the frequency of messages about the electronic voting system has followed the subjects related to the vote counting process in the 2020 United States election, to the cyber attack against the system of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), to the delay in the vote count for the first round of the 2020 municipal elections in Brazil, and to the speculation, discussions and vote related to Bill No. 135/19, nicknamed the Auditable Printed Vote Bill, which was rejected in the Chamber of Deputies in August 2021. In addition, continued statements made by President Jair Bolsonaro (PL) questioning the fairness of the 2014 and 2018 electoral cycles and creating a climate of suspicion for the 2022 presidential race help maintain intense discussions about the topic on Facebook. The peaks of publications in November 2020 and January, May, July and August 2021 reflected this political context.

The year 2021 was marked by the intense activity of groups and pages supporting printed votes, as we will present in the next section. This activity is not evenly distributed, and the participation of interest groups led to a general increase in the average posts per page in the period. Using monthly data since 2014, it is possible to observe that, of the ten months with the highest average posts per account, six of them were in 2021. The same distribution is observed when exploring the data on average interactions per account since 2014, which indicates a higher level of activity as well as an ability to mobilize support regarding the topic. The year 2021 also stands out when compared to other periods with intense circulation of content about electronic voting machine fraud. In 2018, for instance, there was the highest volume of interactions in posts about electronic voting machine fraud in recent years (RUEDIGER et al., 2020a), with an average of 1,206.3 interactions per post in October, the highest level of engagement in the period. Nevertheless, in 2021, there were four months with an average of interactions per post higher than October 2018, especially July and August, which had an average of 2,724.8 and 2,369.9, respectively.

After the peak that happened in the context of the rejection of the Printed Vote Bill in August 2021, the debate dropped significantly, which correlates with a decrease in the participation of institutional leaders in the debate. November and December 2021 and January 2022 had a low volume of debate as well as a low level of interaction and engagement. One highlight among the major actors in this period was Filipe Barros (PSL-PR), the only institutional leader insisting on the topic after the Printed Vote Bill was rejected. He generated more than 140 thousand interactions in his posts. Another highlight was the Jornal da Cidade Online, the second page with the most engagement, generating more than 105 thousand interactions. Ten of the fifteen groups and pages with the most publications about the topic are aligned with the Bolsonaro administration. Regarding the topics discussed, the publications can be divided into those following the TSE initiatives to prove the security of the electronic voting machines and those attempting to mobilize a support group (mostly supporting Bolsonaro) for coordinated actions to audit votes, such as sending proof of voter turnout to Jair Bolsonaro. This type of call to action had already appeared in the 2018 presidential elections.

2) Accounts and interactions on Facebook

Among pages, groups and verified profiles, 27,840 accounts made 394,370 posts with accusations of electronic voting machine fraud and promoting auditable printed votes between the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2022 on Facebook. There were at least 111,748,306 interactions obtained by the group of accounts publishing about these topics in the analyzed period. Twelve accounts stood out, having accumulated more than 1 million interactions each. Except for the media outlet UOL Notícias, they are all aligned with the Bolsonaro administration or with the right-wing conservative agenda. Seven of the accounts belong to politicians, but this subgroup also includes a (hyper)partisan media channel, a platform media channel, two representatives of the traditional press, and two support groups.

Accounts that attracted the most interactions in posts about electronic voting machine fraud
Analysis period: November 2, 2020 to January 18, 2022

. Source: CrowdTangle| Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

A PSL-SP congresswoman and an ally of Bolsonaro, Carla Zambelli (ZambelliOficial) published 1,576 times and attracted 7,961,826 interactions, with an average of 5,051 per post, promoting ideas that question the electoral system (Figure 2). Other political actors were able to maintain a high level of engagement even with a much lower amount of posts, such as Bia Kicis (PSL-DF) and Filipe Barros (PSL-PR), who published 256 and 261 messages, respectively, and attracted 6,855,975 and 4,884,829 interactions, with an average of 26,781 and 18,715 interactions per post. President Jair Bolsonaro (PL), even with only 42 posts in the period, obtained 3,878,011 interactions, an average of 92,333 per publication.

Accounts that posted the most about electronic voting machine fraud
Analysis period: November 2, 2020 to January 18, 2022

. Source: CrowdTangle| Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Together with the most influential accounts, there were another 23 that made more than 1 thousand posts about the topic in 15 months on Facebook (Figure 3). Most of those are accounts supporting Jair Bolsonaro, such as the pages “Movimento Brasil” (11,856), “Bolsonaro 2022 ” (7,413), “GRUPO OLAVO DE CARVALHO” (2,815), “FORÇABRASIL” (2,725), “Aliança pelo Brasil 38” (2,649), Bolsonaro 2022” (2,381), “Grupo do SOLDADO DE AÇO Apoio ao Presidente Jair Bolsonaro” (2,284), among others (Figure 3). The remaining actors include more than 30 thousand single accounts, with a predominance of actors associated with the values and personalities of the conservative ecosystem of the new Brazilian right. There was also a smaller number of media outlets and left-wing pages who commented or reacted to the posts. In addition, there were accounts making references to the third way or to anti-system ideology.

3) Most popular posts about electronic voting machine fraud on Facebook

Forty posts promoting the idea of electronic voting machine fraud and defending auditable printed votes are among those with the most interactions, for a total of 6,809,193. Those publications were made by 11 different accounts, of which nine belong to public figures and two were public groups named “Conservadores Sergipe” and “TV Bolsonaro-B38 Em 2022”. The nine public figures include politicians (elected representatives or other), such as Bia Kicis, Carla Zambelli, Eduardo Bolsonaro, Fernando Borja, Jair Bolsonaro, Magno Malta and Roberto Requião, as well as a blogger and youtuber aligned with Bolsonaro, Alberto Silva. Of the 40 most relevant publications in terms of digital repercussion on Facebook, 13 (32.5%) were made by Jair Bolsonaro’s page (jairmessias.bolsonaro), which reached 3,227,981 interactions (47.4%) and are among the top 20 posts (Figure 4).

Of the ten top publications, eight are posts made by the official page of Jair Bolsonaro, and three of them were content delivered through live streaming. Of the eight most popular posts originating from Bolsonaro’s profile, one was the top shared among the 40 most popular, and was passed on at least 144,735 times since its publication on July 12, 2021. It was a news report presented in 2009by a news program at Band, which was then presented by the journalist Ricardo Boechat, with a complaint electoral fraud in Caxias, Maranhão, filed by a defeated coalition and archived by the Federal Police in 2009. This video circulates periodically and has been considered “out of context” by fact checking initiatives. The publication with the most interactions taking into account reactions, shares and comments (393,193 interactions) was made on February 1st, 2021, also by President Bolsonaro, when Rodrigo Pacheco (DEM-MG) won the dispute for the presidency of the Senate, remarking that the vote happened through “paper notes”.

The 20 posts with the most interactions on Facebook
Analysis period: November 2, 2020 to January 18, 2022

. Source: CrowdTangle| Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Publications made by the pages of the former Paraná Senator Roberto Requião (robertorequiao) (MDB) and of the pro-Bolsonaro blogger and youtuber Alberto Silva (albertosilvaBrasil) were also included in the top 10. Requião posted a portion of a statement made by a prosecutor from Mato Grosso do Sul in a debate about the security of the electronic system organized by the Justice and Citizenship Committee of the Chamber of Deputies, in which he defended the adoption of paper voting, generating 239,751 interactions. Alberto Silva, on July 22, 2021, commented about a statement made by the Minister of Defence, Walter Braga Netto, which was published by the press, and warned his followers that the Army has determined that there would be auditable printed votes or no election at all, generating 220,532 interactions in an exaggerated post that was later denied.

The congresswoman Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP), who supports the Bolsonaro administration, came in second place with 12 publications and obtaining 1,601,128 interactions (23.5%), followed by Bia Kicis (PSL-DF), the author of the Printed Vote Bill (which was then pending), who had six publications among the 40 most popular and obtained 664,908 interactions (9.7%). Two publications made by Eduardo Bolsonaro, a PSL-SP congressman, were among the most influential, with 222,533 interactions (3.2%), and the public group “TV Bolsonaro- B38 Em 2022” also had two highlighted publications and obtained 229,714 interactions (3.3%). Five other accounts made one publication each and obtained, together, 862,929 interactions (12.6%). Therefore, the pages of Jair Bolsonaro and Carla Zambelli were responsible for most of the posts that frequently led to suspicions about the Brazilian electronic voting system.

4) Circulation of links on Facebook

Of the 394,370 posts that compose the research corpus, 133,822 (33.9%) were based in internal and external links on Facebook, a subgroup that generated 26,755,836 (23.9%) interactions. When analyzing the period between the first and last appearances of these links n the database, it is possible to determine that their lifetime ranged from one to 435 days. Fifty of those links can be considered the most relevant, since they were found in at least 100 posts, until the amount of 8,412. Of those, 20 are external links and 30 are internal links on Facebook, that is, they refer to another publication made in the same platform.

The most shared links on Facebook
Analysis period: November 2, 2020 to January 18, 2022

. Source: CrowdTangle| Elaborated by: FGV DAPP

Of the 20 external links, the most shared one between 2020 and 2022 linked to a public consultation about legislative recommendation No. 9/2018 for printed votes in 100% of the voting machines. This call to action was already a highlight in our first study (RUEDIGER et al., 2020b). Nine other “call to action” links were among the most frequent, showing different types of material related to the “printed vote campaign” and polls about Bill No. 135/2019. Four of them are YouTube links, all of which linked to the channel of a constitutional attorney that severely criticized the STF ministers and defended the printed vote. Two of them linked to right-wing (hyper) partisan media channels such as Imprensa Brasil and Terça Livre, and one linked to a left-wing partisan media channel, Brasil247.

Lastly, another frequent link was to the traditional media channel CBN, commenting about a statement made by Jair Bolsonaro about the United States Capitol attack, after the then president Donald Trump encouraged the idea of electoral fraud in the 2020 race and discredited its result. There was also an access link to a Zoom meeting room and a link to a website called ÉAssim. In turn, the internal links replicated popular posts such as those made by politicians and public figures in their personal profiles. There was a predominance of publications made by Jair Bolsonaro, Carla Zambelli, Bia Kicis and Filipe Barros, who were already among those making the most relevant posts in the debate. All these links had visual content: Twenty videos (including live streaming and embedded media) and ten photos (promoting support for Bolsonaro).


This study sought to understand the characteristics of posts about electronic voting machine fraud accusations and auditable printed vote made on Facebook between November 2020 and January 2022. The investigation observed the authors and interactions obtained in these posts in order to understand, through one more research effort, where the mobilization force of the agenda of electoral mistrust is in the current political context in Brazil. This is the third research report dedicated to this topic. Together with the two previous studies (RUEDIGER et al., 2020a; RUEDIGER et al., 2020b), we have found that mistrust about the electronic voting system has been an ongoing topic at least since 2014 in the public debate on social media, appearing within segmented publics from center right to radical right and increasing in frequency and level of interaction since 2018. The year 2021 stands out due to the number of posts and interactions, which, in some months, surpassed the 2018 electoral year, which has been a reference point in this topic in the recent context.

In 15 months, these 394,370 posts were published by 27,840 accounts and generated more than 111 million interactions, which also demonstrates how active this topic is and how much recent material is available to make it circulate when deemed convenient. In general, the most popular posts about this subject in terms of interactions are those associated with the discourse of no acceptance of electoral results, as well as the presence of fraud in previous elections and future risks, and not necessarily those related to the technical discussion or criticism promoted by specialists in IT or related areas about transparency, digital security and electronic voting machines. On the contrary, the most popular posts about the topic are published by politicians aligned with the Jair Bolsonaro administration, by the president himself and by pages of supporters, including bloggers and conservative groups. The exception is Roberto Requião (MDB), who started arguing about the possibility of voting violations and the implementation of a hybrid policy, having presented a proposal for an electronic voting machine with a printer in 2001.

In any case, it is noteworthy that accounts apparently associated with organic support organizations – such as the hundreds of thousands of pages and groups that mention Bolsonaro, his children and support leaders, as well as pages that refer to values ​​of radical right conservatism with an exacerbated idea of ​​patriotism and the role of moral customs, interventionism, pro-gun advocacy, etc. – are among the actors that have published about the topic tens of thousands of times in 15 months. Therefore, further investigation is necessary on how these accounts are articulated in the process of disseminating these messages on Facebook and their relationship with an unofficial political propaganda and campaigning machine (DOS SANTOS, 2017) and, as such, more typically linked to disinformation campaigns and the manipulation of individual and collective opinions. It should also be noted that the allegations of electronic voting machine fraud and requests for auditable printed votes are associated with other potentially dangerous discourses, including stigmas involving the ideology of “leftism” and institutional attacks, mainly against the STF, the TSE and its ministers. Future textual and content analyzes can focus on these aspects.


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