Brazil military tried to play down deforestation by posing as NGOs
Bolsonaro better prepare for the up-and-coming round of criticism coming his way, as his military was found to be involved in anti-environmentalist propaganda.
Meta's Facebook has removed a network of social media accounts linked to the Brazilian military, which posed as fake NGOs in a bid to play down the catastrophic dangers of deforestation as President Jair Bolosonaro seeks economic benefits for Brasil at the expense of its ecosystem.
The area deforested in Brazil’s Amazon reached a 15-year high after a 22% jump from the prior year, Brazilian authorities reported in November.
Former records showed that the Brazilian Amazon has lost 13,235 square kilometers of rainforest in one year only, hitting a record high since 2006.
The comments made by Meta, published in a quarterly report, are heavily impactful for Bolsonaro's government, which is highly opposed by the Brazilian public due to its far-right anti-vax and anti-environmentalist policies.
The individuals found to be involved in the propaganda debacle are active military personnel, though an investigation carried out by Facebook's parent company could not find enough evidence to prove whether they had received orders from Brasilia, a knowledgeable source said.
The takedown of the network will likely stoke the fire of Bolsonaro's attacks on big tech firms over what he claims to be the silencing of conservative voices on their social media platforms.
Bolsonaro's critics, on the other hand, see that the president and his supporters employ those platforms as a tool for spreading dangerous disinformation and undermining the democratic process and institutions in Brazil.
The network was found to be using Facebook and Instagram to post about land reform and the pandemic in 2020 but later turned to post about environmental issues in 2021.
"In 2021, they created Pages that posed as fictitious NGOs and activists focused on environmental issues in the Amazonas region of Brazil. They posted about deforestation, including arguing that not all of it is harmful, and criticizing legitimate environmental NGOs who spoke out against deforestation in the Amazon,” Meta's report read.
"Although the people behind [the network] attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with the Brazilian Military," the tech giant added.
Before Jair Bolsonaro's term began in January 2019, the Brazilian Amazon had not recorded a single year with more than 10,000 square kilometers of deforestation in over a decade. Between 2009 and 2018, the average was 6,500 square kilometers. Since then, the annual average leaped to 11,405 square kilometers, and the three-year total is an area bigger than the state of Maryland.