Even before the clocks marked the first minutes of January 1, 2022, the general expectation was that a complicated year awaited us, to say the least, especially with regard to the national political scenario. The probability of a hotly contested election num highly polarized contextwhich the results of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) only confirmed, had already taken shape months before the official start of the candidates’ campaigns.
As if an electoral process were not enough in this context, in which the freedom of expression e of press were once again the target of public debate, 2022 was still marked by the continuation of the Covid-19 pandemic and the emergence of new diseases that arrived in Brazil, such as Mpox (new name for monkeypox)🇧🇷 by the geopolitical tension between Russia and Ukraine, whose economic effects strongly affected several commodities, such as agriculture; and the World Cup in Qatar, which provoked intense debates about the choice of the Arab country by Fifa.
The ways in which we become aware of these national and international facts and follow their unfolding are increasingly multiple, with diverse possibilities of formats and narratives. The potential of this variety of sources and contents is dubious: if on the one hand there is diversity of points of view and discourses —which is very positive—, on the other hand we have an infinity of disinformation of all kinds influencing the ways in which we experience the world , shaping our opinions and, for many, the facts themselves.
As long as we are not aware that the ways in which we produce and consume information affect all spheres of our social life, from health to public education, including our interpersonal relationships, we will not see progress in terms of stemming the profusion of fake news that confuse, manipulate and incite violence and even deaths🇧🇷 Looking at what happened in 2022 in terms of information and misinformation is a way to reflect on what we are really doing to strengthen our democracy and to mitigate the effects of everything that tries to corrode it.
Below are five of the times when critical thinking media education was key this year.
Elections 2022: As expected since the 2018 election, this year’s election campaign was marked by a unprecedented volume of misinformation, in overwhelming proportions. Between June and the first days of October alone, the TSE received more than 21,000 reports of fake news. If we think that most of the disinformation is not even reported, even because there is a large portion of the population that believes in those messages, that number must be incredibly higher. We also saw the dissemination of a sophisticated variety of techniques to misinform voters about candidacies, parties and institutions, ranging from mass shooting of content via WhatsApp, Telegram and SMS, to firehosing, deepfakesclick-bait, information taken out of context and hate speechamong others.
Freedom of expression in debate: the high volume of disinformation has pressured digital platforms and political institutions to take measures to contain the problem, which has resulted in the removal of content and blocking of accounts, channels and profiles of digital and political influencers on social networks. Because of this, the discussion around the limits of freedom of expression and of the press and, consequently, of possible censorship mechanismstook over the public debate, The dispute over the role of big techspublic agents and civil society at this juncture was quite tense and promises to have consequences in 2023.
world Cup: one of the most anticipated mega-events, the World Cup is a colossal event in sporting, journalistic and publicity terms, becoming practically the only agenda during the weeks in which it takes place. Consequently, the flow of information regarding the World Cup, whose 2022 edition was held in Qatar, yielded a flood of news and memes about players, teams and their respective countries. However, what can be a good opportunity to get in touch with different cultures, learn about local customs and understand different geopolitical dynamics, can turn into the dissemination of misinformation and hate speech, as seen in islamophobic messages e racists on social media.
Mpox: while we were experiencing the Covid-19 pandemic, whose virus continues, albeit on a smaller scale due to vaccines, contaminating and victimizing people on a daily basis, the first international news about Mpox appeared, WHO name for monkeypox🇧🇷 Doubts about the cause, onset, transmission and symptoms populated timelines and search engines, requiring the search for reliable sources of information. The absence of public campaigns by health agencies in Brazil contributed to the lack of information about the disease, reinforcing fears and prejudices, including in relation to the name of the disease and risk groups.
War between Russia and Ukraine: The invasion of Ukrainian territory by Russia started in February, it has already caused thousands of deaths, but the real number is still unknown due to the dissemination of political narratives and the difficulty of gathering information in this context. Amidst devastating humanitarian effects, the UN estimates that 14 million people have been forced to leave their homes, of which 8 million have had to migrate to other countries. Unlike previous wars, news coverage of the conflict is not only found in the media, but also on social media, with the possibility of following reporters, civilians and refugees in real time and consuming videos on platforms such as YouTube and the TikTok🇧🇷 However, this process has also provoked, in these same networks, a wave of revisionist and biased contentwhich distort historical facts, as well as manifestations of Russophobia.