| 20 May 2024, Monday |

Bolsonaro blocks critics on social media, says rights group

Human Rights Watch said on Thursday that Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s far-right president, is blocking social media followers who criticize him, infringing on their right to freedom of expression and access to information.

According to the rights group, Bolsonaro has blocked 176 accounts, including those of journalists, members of congress, and social media influencers with more than a million followers.

Bolsonaro’s use of social media has been an important part of his public communication strategy, helping him win office in 2018 and interact with supporters. He has 6.9 million Twitter followers, 14.2 million on Facebook, and 18.6 million on Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram.

“He’s attempting to purge his social media accounts of people and institutions who oppose him, turning them into spaces where only applause is permitted,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Human Rights Watch’s Brazil director.

A request for comment from the presidential press office was not immediately returned.

As president, Bolsonaro has used social media to make official announcements, comment on foreign affairs and lash out at his opponents.

Blocked people can no longer comment on his posts, which prevents them from participating in public debate and stops journalists from asking questions, infringing on freedom of the press, Human Rights Watch said.

In April and June, the group posted messages on its Brazil Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts asking users if Bolsonaro had blocked them. More than 400 said yes, the vast majority on Twitter. Among them, 176 provided screenshots showing their usernames. Most said they were blocked after publishing comments criticizing the government.

Blocked followers included the Brazil accounts of Amnesty International, Reporters without Borders and Human Rights Watch.

In a case involving former U.S. President Donald Trump, a U.S. court ruled in 2019 that a public official cannot block people from social media accounts used for official business just because they express views with which the official disagrees.

  • Reuters