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Fernanda Odilla Vasconcellos will discuss two major anti-corruption initiatives in Brasil

The paper will be presented at the next ECPR General Conference

24 AUGUST 2020


ECPR General Conference - Online


Tales from Brazil: the Use of Digital Media to Mobilize People Against Corruption and Pressure Politicians to Pass Bills Against Themselves


Social accountability strongly relies on collective actions that are triggered from the bottom-up. In this regard, digital media can be an important ally in increasing citizen participation in decision making. However, we still know very little about how digital media operate and, more importantly, foster the intersections between bottom-up and top-down efforts to curb corruption.
As an attempt to contribute to this discussion, this paper presents some preliminary reflections in the framework of the ERC funded project BIT-ACT. More specifically, it compares two recent anti-corruption initiatives in Brazil that became law through popular petition, exploring how they used digital media to mobilize people and pressure politicians to pass specific bills that ended up being used against some of them.

The Clean Slate became law in 2010 and bars candidates from running for public office for eight years if their convictions for serious crime have been upheld on appeal, or if they lost their political positions due to corruption or resigned to avoid impeachment. In 2009, the Movement to Combat Electoral Corruption -a group representing more than 40 civil society organizations, non-profits, and religious associations led by a judge and with a strong support of the catholic church- announced the collection of over 1.3 million signatures to submit a bill before Congress that approved the law in the following year. The campaign, however, started years before, in 1997, on churches, then went to streets, and finally used the internet.
The "10 measures against corruption" initiative, in turn, was launched by the prosecution service on the wave of Car Wash Operation (Lava Jato) and used social media as its main driver. The Lava Jato Task Force developed a legislative proposal to encourage the prosecution of corruption cases and to diminish impunity but also invested hard in creating a website and using Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp to spread the word. Despite having collected over 2 million signatures to submit the bill before Congress in 2016, the bill faced backlashes and it was approved in 2019 with substantially different from the Task Force’s original proposal.

Based on the strategies used by these two campaigns analysed through media publications and congressional official records, the paper aims to discuss the role of digital media in triggering (or just facilitating) collective actions for increasing social accountability, political participation, and anti-corruption mechanisms.