Philosophische Fakultät

Fake News, Social Media and Subjectivities: Effects on Society and Politics in Brazil

Tuesday July 21, 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm (CEST) – 10:00 am to 12:00 pm (Brazilian Time)

Conference Panel with:

Jean Wyllys (Harvard University)
Dr. Fernanda Bruno (Rio de Janeiro Federal University)

Moderation: Dr. Beatriz Polivanov (Fluminense Federal University)

Video Presentations in the Session:

The so-called “social media” have boosted discussions on subjectivity production within digital culture, including debates concerning the dissemination of disinformation, popularly known as “fake news”. In Brazil, where around 66% of the population are social media users (Kemp, 2020), the production, circulation and consumption of contents by different agents via such platforms had a significant impact in 2018’s presidential elections’ outcome, in a context of democratic instability and political polarization.  

More than just pointing out that “fake news” were in part responsible for the current president’s election, this panel seeks to address some of the following questions: What kinds of disinformation were and are propagated and by whom? What are the roles that platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook play in this scenario? What consequences do they engender for individuals and institutions, before and after the pandemic? What strategies can be put into place, in a context of digital culture, to fight neo-fascism? In a broader sense we ask ourselves: How does the algorithmic mediation of digital platforms affect contemporary subjectivity, from our Global South perspective? What kind of human-machine future are we building?

Biographies of participants

Jean Wyllys

Jean Wyllys is a Brazilian writer, journalist and former politician who was the first gay-rights activist in the Brazilian congress. His advocation for minority rights, especially for the LGBTI-Community, are subject of the documentary "Entre os Homens de Bem" (Among Virtuous Men) by Carlos Juliano Barros and Caio Cavechini.
In 2019 Wyllys had to give up his Congress seat due to increasing death threats after his colleague and friend Marielle Franco – a lesbian, left-wing politician – was killed in the middle of the street. He went into exile to Europe but nevertheless continues his political work from there.

Since End of 2019, he is lecturer and researcher at the Afro-Latin American Research Institute at Harvard University as a visiting fellow within the ALARI Scolars at Risk program. Combining the long experience (eight years) as a victim of fake news and hate speech due to sexual orientation, including communication strategies and policies thought of as antidotes during this experiment, his research aims to understand, through literature review  and observation of other contexts in which these phenomena are also present, such as fake news and hate speech articulate with each other and impact voter subjectivities in political and decision-making processes.


Fernanda Bruno

Fernanda Bruno is an Associate Professor at Post-Graduation Program of Communication and Culture, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She is the Director of the  MediaLab.UFRJ and a Senior Researcher at National Scientific Council (CNPq), Brazil. Fernanda is a co-founder of the Latin American Network of Surveillance, Technology and Society Studies - LAVITS and she was a Visiting Researcher at médialab and at the Center for International Studies of Sciences Po Paris (2010_2011) and a Visiting Senior Research at the Department of Digital Humanities at King’s College London (2019_2020). Currently, she is a Research Fellow at the Surveillance Studies Centre at Queen’s University. Her books include Máquinas de ver, modos de ser: vigilância, tecnologia e subjetividade (Sulina, 2013) e Tecnopolíticas da Vigilância: perspectivas da margem (2018, Boitempo). She is co-editor of the Revista DR.

Beatriz Polivanov

Beatriz Polivanov is a tenured professor at the Department of Media and Cultural Studies, as well as at the Communication Post-Graduation Program at Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF), Brazil. She was a visiting scholar at the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at the University of McGill, Canada, from 2019 to 2020. She holds a PhD and MA in Communication by UFF, and a BA in Arts by Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. She is the leader of the research group MiDICom (Digital Media, Identity and Communication). Her research interests involve social network platforms; self-performance; consumption practices; gender studies.