Digital Democracy

Digitalization and the Public Sphere in Brazil

September 7 Mobilizations

Highlights and information flows in the digital environment

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1. Executive Summary

The goal of this report is to present an overview of the public debate about the antidemocratic mobilizations associated with September 7, the Brazilian Independence Day, which were intensified due to the presidential race in October 2022. Based on data collected on Twitter and Facebook, we sought to understand how authoritarian and extremist narratives circulated and targeted democratic institutions and authorities of the Brazilian Judiciary Branch. To compose this framework, we chose two different periods for analysis: the period before September 7, between June 1 and September 1, and the holiday week, between September 2 and 8. On Twitter, we sought to explore the evolution of the general debate about the holiday, the discussion on each topic, institutions and authorities associated with the date, and the most frequent terms in this discussion. On Facebook, the analysis focused on public groups aligned with former president Jair Bolsonaro due to the identification of antidemocratic content and electoral publication boosting circulating on the network in the months prior to the elections.

September 7; Antidemocratic Mobilizations; 2022 Presidential Elections.


Summary of Results


  • The debate on Twitter about September 7 began growing in May 2022, and a public call for antidemocratic demonstrations made by former president Jair Bolsonaro prompted a significant increase in this discussion in the beginning of August.
  • The narrative used by Bolsonaro’s supporters was that the date could be strategic to express the government’s strength and ‘win the war’ against the Judiciary Branch and the opposition. The Supreme Court (STF) and the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) were the biggest targets.
  • The most frequent topics in both pro-government and opposition profiles included the security forces and interventionists, as well as mentions to the STF and the TSE.
  • In public groups supporting the former president on Facebook, there was a predominance of posts between July 1 and September 1 with videos in which Bolsonaro called electors for antidemocratic acts in association with Christian values.
  • On Twitter, the rivalry between Bolsonaro and the recently elected president of the TSE, Alexandre de Moraes, was emphasized on the week of September 7, with several attacks against the minister and claims of a ‘judicial dictatorship’.

2. Results and Discussion

1) Period before September 7

Figure 1 – Evolution of mentions on Twitter
Period: August 2 at midday to August 3 at midday, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

In the beginning of August, posts about September 7 saw a relevant increase due to statements made by then-president Jair Bolsonaro (PL). On one hand, Bolsonaro’s supporters called his electors to become involved in demonstrations at the date and spoke about the importance of showing the strength of the Brazilian people. On the other hand, Bolsonaro’s critics saw the act as antidemocratic and were concerned with the tone of his statements and with the potential participation of the Armed Forces in these demonstrations. Profiles criticizing the former president also called the population for the Grito dos Excluídos (Cry of the Excluded), and remembered that the left has always made demonstrations in the holiday.

Another highlight in the mentions to the preparation for the act on the platform were the suspicions that far-right movements were allegedly planning an attack on September 7 in order to frame the left and expand support for Bolsonaro’s re-election bid in 2022. To a lesser extent, supporters of the former president also expressed fear that the Supreme Court was planning a “coup” on the aforementioned date.

The calls to support Bolsonaro on September 7 mentioned the need to ‘win the war’ and claimed that he would win the elections in the first round. Bolsonaro’s supporters also criticized the Supreme Court ministers for ‘censoring’ the acts, and spoke about the need to ‘save’ the country from Lula.

Figure 2 – Topics associated with September 7 on Twitter
Period: from August 2 at midday to August 3 at midday, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

The security forces have stood out in the debate about the September 7 demonstrations since August 2022. That happened because Bolsonaro’s supporters adopted an interventionist position when calling others for the pro-government acts, requesting the Armed Forces to take control beside the president.

When calling for military intervention, Bolsonaro’s supporters opposed several public institutions, attacking mostly the Supreme Court and the Superior Electoral Court. In particular, criticism targeting Supreme Court Minister Cármen Lúcia mobilized the debate on the September 7 holiday, since the minister was the rapporteur for a lawsuit claiming that Bolsonaro was trying to transform the traditional Independence Day parade into a pro-government act. These attacks intensified after Cármen Lúcia requested that Bolsonaro provide information about the event within five days.

The opposition to the Bolsonaro administration was also present in the debate, with plenty of criticism against the former president and claims that he was assuming a coupist behavior. However, his supporters stood out in the discussion, mobilizing each other through repeated publications that followed the same pattern. In these publications, Bolsonaro’s supporters stated that September 7 would go down in history, reverting what they called a ‘judicial dictatorship’ and empowering the people.

Figure 3 – Word cloud for September 7 on Twitter
Period: August 26 to September 1, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

At the end of August and beginning of September, there was significant repercussion of a tweet made by Bolsonaro in which he stated that September 7 ‘would be beautiful’, because it would be the moment when Brazilians could renew the fight for freedom, showing what ‘good citizens’ wanted for Brazil. In some cases, the word liberdade (freedom) was highlighted, which could be a criticism of the measures that were being taken by the Judiciary, which would supposedly harm the population’s freedom of speech.

There was also an intensification of the clash between Bolsonaro and the Federal Prosecution Office, after it requested that the Federal Accounting Court determined the adoption of measures by the Defense Ministry to impede the participation of the Armed Forces in the act. The narrative circulating at the time claimed that Bolsonaro had ignored the so-called ‘little decision’ of the Federal Prosecution Office, maintaining the military parade and demonstrating that he was on the side of the Brazilian people.

One of the highlights was the mobilization of many tweets opposing the then-president of the Senate, Rodrigo Pacheco (PSD-MG), claiming that was to blame and was allegedly conspiring with ‘unconstitutional decisions’ by the Judiciary. In some cases, the critics incited the production of banners requesting Pacheco’s impeachment. The attacks were prompted by statements made by Pacheco indicating the need to contain excesses in the demonstration.

Figure 4 – Evolution of posts and interactions about September 7 on groups supporting Jair Bolsonaro on Facebook
Period: July 1 to September 1, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Our monitoring included the collection of 13.4 thousand posts about September 7 published between July 1 and September 1 in 1,739 groups supporting then-president Jair Bolsonaro. In general, the posts used videos and statements made by Bolsonaro calling the population to participate in the demonstrations. The calls used the colors of the Brazilian flag and mentioned the importance of ‘saving the country’ and ‘fighting for freedom’. In addition, a video in which Bolsonaro called the population to take to the streets ‘one last time’ on the date was frequently shared.

The Superior Electoral Court Minister Alexandre de Moraes was called an ‘emperor’ and criticized for his decisions, which users saw as attempts to impede a popular demonstration supporting Bolsonaro. The publications implied that they would not respect the minister’s decisions on September 7.
The then-first-lady Michelle Bolsonaro was mentioned in several posts in association with the sentence “This Brazil belongs to our Lord Jesus Christ!”. In addition, posts making references to Michelle and including a video with actress Cássia Kiss called religious sectors to the demonstrations at the date, arguing that it would be a victory of ‘good against evil’ and the moment to ‘save’ Brazil.

Videos and posts supporting former federal deputy Daniel Silveira (PTB-RJ), whose electoral campaign was contested, also appeared in association with September 7, always in opposition to the Supreme Court. The content indicated a mobilization for the demonstrations based on patriotism, religion and support for Bolsonaro, organizing in opposition to the Brazilian Judiciary Branch.

Figure 5 – Average percentage of boosting on Facebook for September 7 per age group
Period: July 1 to September 1, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Facebook ad library, which provides detailed information about the target audience of ad campaigns. This enabled the identification of information related to the profile of users directed to consume this type of content, such as age range, gender and region. In the case of September 7, we observed the dimension of the profile targeted by the promotion of events associated with the holiday, obtaining an overview of how the target audience was directed to it.

These publications were mostly directed to potential electors of Jair Bolsonaro, which could suggest a way to stimulate more engagement for the demonstrations during the holiday, either virtually or in person, as well as the promotion of the politician’s attributes and opinions as a candidate for re-election.

This type of analysis brings into view commonly used strategies in publicity for goods and services in online social media, but appropriated by political campaigns. Since the 200th anniversary of Independence Day happened in a period of electoral campaign involving several positions, many of the boosted posts tended to use this language, especially when it came to publications made by politicians during their election campaign.

It is interesting to note how political actors and their digital advisory use these market strategies to reach their target audience, sometimes making the posts look organic instead of directed ads. Another noteworthy point is the fact that the majority of these ads are published in pages of supporters articulated within a network, and rarely in the profiles of the politicians themselves, except from the period from September 5 to 7, when candidates to legislative positions participated more strongly in the call for September 7.

Among the 321 publications boosted by publicity posts on Facebook (Facebook ADS), 95% were directed to appear in account feeds on Facebook and Instagram. Out of all the publications, 92% were seeking a specific audience. On average, 56.52% were shown for a male audience and 44.18% were shown for a female audience.

In addition, more than 62% of the publications targeted the audience between 45 and 54 years old (23%) or more, followed by the age range between 55 and 64 years old (22%), as shown by Figure 6, which suggests a specific age and gender cut for the mobilization of segmented groups for September 7.

Regarding the segmentation per state, we found that the publications were viewed the most in São Paulo (39.14%), Minas Gerais (20%), Rio de Janeiro (15.8%), Mato Grosso do Sul (15,47%) and Paraná (15,3%), indicating a focus on places that could potentially have a higher number of supporters for the mobilization on September 7.

Figure 6 – Content targeting per age
Period: July 1 to September 1, 2022

Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Facebook | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Between September 5 and 7, 51.5% of the sponsored posts were directed at women and 49.4% at men, on average. Meanwhile, on the previous week, the average was 43.4% for women and 56.6% for men. Regarding the age range targeted, sponsored posts in that period were more equitable, including the range from 25 to 34 years old, with 19.46% on average.

In the previous week, from August 29 to September 5, the audience targeted the most was over 35 years old, following the general trend seen in Figure 7. This change in the general strategy could indicate an attempt to bring the agenda closer to young people and women, an audience that was still a minority in the discussion.

Considering the above, we can conclude that, at first, Facebook posts were boosted focusing on men between 45 and 54 years old and living in states in the Southeast region of the country, where the candidate obtained the majority of votes in the 2018 election. However, in the Independence Week, the preferred target audience of these paid promotions changed to women from 25 to 34 years old, a strategy that could be seen as an attempt to move closer to a younger, female audience, which was farther away from Bolsonaro according to the pools.

2) Week of September 7


The predominating narrative in this period, particularly among right-wing profiles, was that the September 7 demonstrations had demonstrated Bolsonaro’s high popularity despite the ‘persecution’ from the courts, the media, and from sectors of the left. There were also threats against ministers of the Judiciary, especially due to the absence of court representatives and other democratic institutions on September 7. In a tone of intimidation, the messages suggested that these authorities should ‘give up’ an alleged plan to defraud the elections, or they would suffer the ‘consequences’ from the people. In turn, progressive profiles celebrated the absence of authorities in the ‘political and partisan’, seeing it as a position in favor of maintaining democratic rites.

The main narrative regarding ministers and other authorities in the legal system circulating in groups aligned with the government at the time was that their absences during the September 7 demonstrations had shown how Bolsonaro had been betrayed by those sectors. That argument is based on the idea that Bolsonaro had allegedly initiated a truce in the ongoing conflict by participating in the inauguration ceremony of Alexandre de Moraes as president of the Superior Electoral Court. The ministers, particularly Moraes, were mentioned in threatening remarks, with montages showing images of the demonstrators together with text indicating that the crows represented a message being sent to the minister.

The September 7 holiday remained at the center of the discussion even after the demonstrations, with journalists questioning the use of public funds to finance the acts and mentioning the need for the Electoral Court to investigate the case. A similar demand was mentioned in comments about Bolsonaro’s statements in the acts in Brasília and in Rio de Janeiro, claiming that the president had committed electoral crimes and that the Superior Electoral Court should investigate him. There were increasing alerts related to some figures in the political scene who incited doubt and mistrust regarding the electronic voting machines, such as Pastor Silas Malafaia. There was an understanding that these people should be on the ‘radar’ of electoral authorities.

Figure 7 – Major topics in the debate about voting machine fraud on Twitter
Period: September 2 to 8, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Criticism of the Supreme Electoral Court drove the debate about public institutions, such as the suspension of Michelle Bolsonaro’s electoral advertisement. On the other hand, the opposition alerted about statements made by Silas Malafaia, indicating that the pastor constantly preaches against the electronic voting machines, inciting doubt about their trustworthiness. The narrative claiming that Brazil was going through a ‘judicial dictatorship’ continued to be at the center of the discussion on interventionism, with the pro-government group denying that Bolsonaro had used the September 7 parade for electoral purposes. There was a secondary discussion based on the idea that the event had isolated the president even more, claiming that he could speak only with his own bubble. In turn, the anticommunism debate was marked by conspiracy theories and more intense comments that did not admit the possibility of Bolsonaro losing the election.

Figure 8 – Evolution of mentions to institutions
Period: September 7 to September 8, 2022

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Following the trend found in previous analyses, Bolsonaro’s supporters dominated the debate about the Superior Electoral Court, claiming that the court could be used in an attempt to contest his potential re-election. The narrative in circulation indicated that this would be the only way for Bolsonaro not to win the elections, given his alleged strength with the people, which was supposedly shown in the September 7 demonstrations. There were also indications that Alexandre de Moraes could attempt ‘a trick in the voting machines’ to harm the candidate. In turn, the debate about the Supreme Court was more disputed between the two antagonistic political fields. Even though Bolsonaro’s supporters mobilized the same criticism targeting the Electoral Court against the Supreme Court, the debate was also marked by criticism against Bolsonaro and indications that the then-president had used the historical date for electoral purposes. The absence of the presidents of the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate, and the Supreme Court in the September 7 demonstrations also had negative repercussions for Bolsonaro. In turn, in the debate about the Regional Electoral Courts, the contestation of the candidacy of former federal deputy Daniel Silveira for the Senate remained an important topic, with a predominance of celebration and praise of the Rio de Janeiro Electoral Court, with secondary criticism of alleged illegalities.

Figure 9 – Evolution of mentions to national Electoral Court authorities
Analysis period: September 2 to 8, 2021

Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

. Source: Twitter | Elaborated by: FGV ECMI

Bolsonaro’s supporters were prominent in this debate. The general content of the messages published by these profiles was that ministers such as Alexandre de Moraes, Edson Fachin and other authorities had ‘betrayed’ Bolsonaro by not attending the September 7 demonstrations, while the president had been allegedly ‘humiliated’ publicly since he went to Moraes’s inauguration as president of the Superior Electoral Court in August 2022.

The group supporting Bolsonaro used the image of a crown in the demonstration in Brasília in order to threaten Moraes and claim that he was staging a coup: ‘Try to defraud it, Xandão. The message is given’, said one of the viral posts. Right-wing profiles also claimed Fachin was being ‘authoritarian’ for suspending Bolsonaro’s decrees regarding gun ownership. There were also comments about a statement made by Minister Ricardo Lewandowski on the illegality of appropriating a civic date for political and partisan purposes. While the opposition saw the declaration as an admirable position by the minister, the group supporting Bolsonaro stated that it was a direct attack against the then-president.

3. Conclusions

The data shown here reiterates the idea that September 7 was mobilized politically by then-president Jair Bolsonaro to support his attempts of antidemocratic articulations, which was expressed in a digital political debate driven by profiles aligned with him on Twitter and Facebook.

Although there was a significant participation of the opposition to the Bolsonaro administration in this discussion, his supporters were prominent in the debate and were able to establish narratives against democratic institutions, authorities of the Judiciary Branch, and the Brazilian electoral system. In addition to mobilizing the debate on Twitter, Bolsonaro’s supporters had a significant engagement in public groups on Facebook, which may also have contributed to strengthen authoritative and conspirational narratives in the context of September 7. In this context, the circulation of videos with calls to action at the date by Bolsonaro based on attacks against institutions and Christian references were central elements for engaging this audience.

In addition, there were at least 321 sponsored publications on Facebook with calls for antidemocratic demonstrations on September 7. As indicated by the data, the target audience of these posts went from older men in the Southeast region to younger women, which suggests an attempt to expand the candidate’s electoral base, both for the demonstrations themselves and for the electoral race happening in the following month. By investigating the discourses related to September 7, 2022, this policy paper contributed by indicating topics and strategies used by the digital supporters of the then-president, which were based on weakening the Brazilian democracy.

4. Staff

Research Coordination
Marco Aurelio Ruediger
Amaro Grassi

Sabrina Almeida
Renato Contente
Denisson Santos
Leticia Sabbatini
Mariana Carvalho
Victor Piaia
Maria Cordeiro Sirleidy
Dalby Dienstbach Hubert
Polyana Barboza
Lucas Roberto da Silva

Technical Review
Renata Tomaz

Graphic Project
Daniel Almada
Luis Gomes




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