The Internet complaint movement that managed to ruin many of the far-right websites that spread false news in the United States has just planted its flag in Brazil. Inspired by a report published in the Brazilian edition of EL PAÍS about the Sleeping Giants movement, a student who remains anonymous created a Twitter account and from there began to attract the attention of large companies whose advertising appears on pages that publish news. false or fuel disinformation campaigns. In just over a week, he has garnered 300,000 followers and some 40 companies, including multinationals like McDonald’s and Philips, announce the revision of their advertising policies with Google. A minister and two sons of the president have expressed their irritation with the campaign.
Sleeping Giants was born four years ago with the aim of economically suffocating the websites and television channels that they promote fake news. In this way, he managed to leave without publicity and silence the main American influencers of the extreme right. “I always thought about fighting fake news, but I had never found an efficient way,” explains the administrator of the Brazilian account, which days after being born on May 18 was greeted in a tweet by the movement’s parent account. “Until I discovered this one, which is simple and is based on losing the ability to monetize the pages,” he adds.
Companies often have no idea that their ads are driving websites that earn thousands of clicks on fake news. Google’s programmatic advertising system sometimes causes ads to end up on websites that have huge audiences and a certain audience, even if the content they offer is false or misinformed. They are the main source of income for these pages, which today reproduce texts supporting President Bolsonaro and attacking his adversaries.
For security reasons, the creator of the movement in Brazil prefers not to identify himself. He introduces himself only as a student investigating fake news and celebrates having obtained the approval of Sleeping Giants’ predecessors to replicate the initiative in Brazil. The original founder, publicist Matt Rivitz, received death threats after a conservative website revealed his identity.
In a short time, Sleeping Giants Brasil has managed to get at least 40 companies to commit to reviewing their advertising policies with Google after being alerted that their brands appeared on the Jornal da Cidade Online page. In 2018, this website spread false and distorted information in favor of the campaign by the far-right Jair Bolsonaro. Data verification agencies attribute several false news to the page, which currently attacks governors who support social isolation measures in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and, in tune with Bolsonar networks, uses imprecise data to defend the efficacy (not supported by scientific studies) of hydroxychloroquine in treating the disease. The ads that appear in Jornal da Cidade Online do so through the digital advertising system developed by Google.
One of the advertisers is Banco do Brasil, which, alerted by Sleeping Giants Brasil, quickly expressed its intention to remove the ad from the page aligned with the extreme right. “The automatic communication ads have been removed and that page has been blocked. We reject any spreading of false news, ”said the state bank on its Twitter account. Dell also complied with Sleeping Giants Brasil’s request to veto advertising on Jornal da Cidade Online. “As soon as we received this information, we requested that the automatic announcements be removed,” said the computer company.
Among the dozens of companies that responded to Sleeping Giants’ requests, other multinationals, such as McDonald’s and Philips, stand out. According to the regulations of companies that trade shares in the stock market, they adopt procedures to protect the reputation of the brand, something that the forerunners of the movement take into account when alerting them about their association with pages that spread false news to through digital advertising.
The repercussion bothers the Government
Sleeping Giants Brasil has caused an earthquake on social networks and reactions among members of the Bolsonaro government. Annoyed with the complaints from the Twitter account, the president’s supporters have launched a counterattack to prevent other ultra-conservative pages from being affected by the advertiser flight and have promoted a boycott of the companies that have vetoed their ads in Jornal da Cidade. On-line.
Councilor Carlos Bolsonaro, son of the president, publicly complained about the decision of the Bank of Brazil to block ads on the aforementioned website. The Communication Secretary of the Presidency, Fabio Wajngarten, affirmed that he would resolve the situation. The bank’s marketing department, led by a son of Vice President Hamilton Mourão, backed down and removed the advertising restriction on the page. “The Sleeping Giants urgently need to put aside their ideological biases when filing their alleged allegations,” Wajngarten tweeted.
The Prosecutor’s Office requested an investigation into spending on advertising campaigns carried out by the Office of the Secretary of Communication for the Presidency, stating that it chooses the media out of ideological affinity, and accuses it of investing in pages aligned with Bolsonaro and censoring media critical of the Government. Prosecutors are demanding that a case be opened against Wajngarten for allegedly favoring television channels with contracts with his advertising agency with public money.
Federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro, another son of the president, has joined his brother to complain about Sleeping Giants in Brazil. On his YouTube channel, he expressed concern about what he calls “the newest left-wing strategy to destroy conservative blogs.” The deputy took the opportunity to disclose two Twitter accounts created with the aim of opposing the Sleeping Giants (one has already been blocked for violating the platform’s rules).
While displeasing the government and its militants, celebrities in Brazil show support for the movement. The founders of the initiative in the United States celebrate the meteoric success of the Brazilian subsidiary, which, in just one week, has gained more followers than the original account in English. “The profile has generated a massive movement throughout Brazil, it is on everyone’s lips, from the largest youtuber from the country to the children of the president, and has managed to stop large advertisers from supporting a website that disseminates false information, ”the parent company has published.