In my readings this week, I came across astounding facts and figures across the board proving a high level of engagement of internet users from Brazil. The first of John Bell’s three major insights about social networking in Brazil is that Brazilians are adopting social media faster than any other world market. Also, according to comScore, Inc., 85% of Brazilian internet users visited a social networking site in September 2008 (a 9% increase from 2007). Brazilians make social networking a priority in their everyday lives, it’s no wonder that they pay the highest cell phone bills in the world including above the global average for use of their phone to connect to the internet.
When threatened with the potential of any one of their social media tools to be taken away (for example YouTube and blogs), Brazilians have proven themselves fit for the fight.
In late 2006, an inappropriate video of TV personality, Daniela Cicarelli, with her boyfriend on the beach surfaced on YouTube. Instead of reacting like other celebrities have in the past by going into seclusion for a period of time and releasing a statement through her publicist, Daniela Cicarelli decided to fight against YouTube…to the death. YouTube tried to withdraw the clip from its site, but file sharing made it impossible to clear it from the internet completely. After months of attempts to delete the viral video, in January 2007, the Supreme Court ordered YouTube to find a way to permanently block the video from being uploaded, and, to immediately shut down their site unless this is completed. According to Daniel Cicarelli’s Wikipedia page, “Brasil Telecom, Telefonica and other ISPs implemented such a block, leaving all YouTube’s IPs inaccessible in Brazil.”
Brazilian internet user response was huge. Brazilian YouTube users created a website to boycott Cicarelli, and refused to support MTV and any advertised product, unless Cicarelli left the company. MTV received more than eighty thousand angry e-mails. Additionally, many blogs and even Orkut groups were created protesting the banning of YouTube because of Daniela Cicarelli inability to be private in a public area. Finally, after 2 days, the judge withdrew the ban on YouTube in Brazil, but the public outrage was already unleashed. Brazilian internet users have already chosen their side.
Another example of Brazilian’s strong emotional ties to their social media occurred during the 2008 local elections. Specific regulations were released preceding the 2008 local elections which banned bloggers from participating the in the conversation. Paula Goes sums up the situation in her Global Voices Online blog: “Two of the regulation’s articles have especially raised blogger’s eye-brows, starting with the very first article:
“The electoral campaign for the 2008 regional elections, even if through the Internet or other electronic devices, will be subject to the terms of this resolution”
And second the 18th article, which states:
“The electoral campaign on the Internet will only be allowed on candidates’ purpose-built web pages intended exclusively for the campaign”
Add to these lines the decision that any campaign for the 2008 local elections will only be allowed from July 6, even on the Internet (in fact it has already started on social networking websites and blogs), and stir up this mix of misinformation.
Will netizens be silenced?” – The answer, as Paula soon learned, is no.
Before these regulations were withdrawn, there was a blog that was censored as part of this regulation. A journalist-blogger named Pedro Doria blogged that he would like Fernando Gabeira to run for mayer of Rio de Janeiro. He believed that his campaign would work with the help of the blogosphere and bloggers who would help spread this message and convince Fernando Gabeira to run. However, by May 2008, Pedro and other bloggers were censored by the government and forced to take down the promotional banners they featured on their blogs supporting Fernando Gabeira. The Rio de Janeiro Regional Electoral Court demanded the banners be taken off, or else Gabeira’s candidacy would be banned.
The outcry from Brazilian netizens was, again, huge. However, almost overnight, Brazilian blogger Thalles Waichert announced to the world that this decision has been reversed. Paula Goes sums up his statement (written in Portuguese): “in an overnight U-turn, the Justice decided that bloggers are now welcome to debate and express their opinions and candidates can now also use social networking tools to promote their campaign. He concludes that together the blogosphere is stronger than ever.”
Translated into English, Thalles Waichert passionately states in his blog, “Look… how curious that bloggers arguments forced a change in the rules of this year’s election! This is the greatest point…”
Indeed, Mr. Waichert. The power of many is astounding!
Brazilians cannot be silenced. They are passionate about their voice in social media. Work with them, not against, and you will go far.