by Fernanda Nogueira, Co-Editor and Writer at Brazil Talk
Over 90% of Brazilians use social media to read the news, and 70% of them have Facebook as their main source. It is a global trend, and it presents serious risks to public participation in politics, for the simple fact that one can select exactly what type of news one wishes to see. Even worse, based on your profile information, social media instruments now develop algorithms that determine what reaches your newsfeed, tailored to your tastes and beliefs. This allows people to avoid opinions with which one would otherwise disagree. This conduct has led to an alienation of public opinion in Brazil and abroad and has divided people into very distant groups in face of recent events, such as the president’s impeachment, hindering real civic participation in such an important time.
When it took effect in 2012, Brazil’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) was seen as a revolution in the fight against secrecy and bureaucracy. Yet, albeit necessary, the law has since proved to be insufficient in ensuring transparency and accountability in the public sector. In 2014, Transparency Audit Network, an initiative based at the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) in Rio de Janeiro, submitted over 500 electronically freedom of information requests to eight jurisdictions. Only 31 percent got full responses – a very low rate that shows governments still have a long way to go to comply with transparency regulations.