The Hashtag War In Brazil

02/19/2014 11:45 am ET | Updated Apr 21, 2014
  • Natalia Viana Co-director of Publica, nonprofit investigative journalism agency in Brazil

The massive protests that took the streets of Brazil last June were sparked by a raise in bus fares, but soon other issues -- such as the high investments in the World Cup -- were included in the outraged signs carried by protesters. Since then, the World Cup has slowly become an incredibly hot issue for the federal government. According to newspaper Folha de S Paulo, Dilma Roussef's government commissioned a 428-page survey about the relationship between protests and the World Cup, and the popular rejection against it. The result was clear: the population did not buy the promised "legacy" that the World Cup would supposedly bring to Brazil, such as economic development and long-term infrastructure -- especially after media such as Agencia Publica proved that most of the mobility projects had been abandoned while investments in stadia doubled in some cases.

The solution came from the government trusted propaganda strategists: instead of focusing on the legacy, the government should focus its message on nationalism, and the Brazilian pride for our football. The main arena in which the propaganda is being rolled out is the internet. Dilma Rousseff's official twitter account soon adopted the hashtag "The World Cup of the World Cups" (#CopaDasCopas).

Since 2011, the popular committees -- citizen organizations of those affected by infrastructure works- have used the slogan "Wold Cup for Whom?". But after July, a more extreme anti-World Cup hashtag, championed by smaller and more radical groups like Anonymous is becoming popular on the web: #NãoVaiTerCopa, or "There Will Be no World Cup". The intentions behind those using this hashtag are diverse - many groups are but traditional leftists, tired of the institutional party line of the Workers Party -- but the government sees it as a serious threat pointing towards a boycott of the games, or worse, calling violent protest to try to halt it. The official president Facebook page rebuffed by using an all-too proud hashtag, "There Will be World Cup!" (#VaiTerCopa), while her supporters aggressively attacked anyone who criticized the mega-event.

Heated debates followed in Brazil's vibrant social media -- Brazil has over 65 million Facebook users - with both sides accusing the other of authoritarianism. At the moment, the internet débâcle is still going on. We are left to see who will win the hashtag wars -- and how this virtual rhetoric will affect the inclination of Brazilians in the streets during the World Cup.