NED Grantee Combats Disinformation in Brazil During Pivotal Year

Grantee Spotlight: Instituto Technologia e Equidade

The Instituto Tecnologia e Equidade (IT&E)—a grantee of the National Endowment for Democracy—combats disinformation in Brazil through training programs and cutting-edge research on the ethical use of technology. Gearing up for 2020 Brazilian municipal elections that took place in November 2020, the organization conducted workshops and discussions for journalists and local electoral authorities across the country. So when the covid-19 pandemic challenged their critical work, IT&E quickly needed to adapt and innovate. (Read more about NED’s work in Brazil.)

“Due to the impossibility of making trips and face-to-face events, we decided to migrate the project to the virtual environment, an initiative that we managed to get off the ground in two weeks, with countless hours of work and a lot of dedication,” explained the directors of IT&E, Ariel Kogan, Marcio Vasconcelos and Thiago Rondon, on their website.

This quick transition was not easy. The organization’s online talk show on combatting disinformation, Democracia Digital – Edition Alagoas, suffered a coordinated “zoom-bombing” attack by malicious agents that hijacked the screen and wreaked havoc on the audio. (Watch in the above video.)

“IT&E understood right away the importance of having well-developed virtual seminars and managed to produce them very quickly. Their work with electoral authorities was key to mitigate the impact of potential disinformation campaigns, which were a major problem in the 2018 elections in Brazil,” says Enrique Bravo-Escobar, regional expert and senior program officer at NED.

Despite these challenges, IT&E continued their important work on technology’s acceleration of disinformation. The organization hosted dozens of training sessions for electoral court staff members,  provided forums for discussion, and developed open-source resources about electoral corruption ahead of the local elections. Focused on specific challenges for each Brazilian state, a series of free, online meetings led by experts discussed the pandemic’s effects on the disinformation crisis. (See the most recent videos from IT&E.)

At this pivotal time for Brazil’s democracy, the IT&E directors explain, “Instituto Tecnologia e Equidade will continue to work very hard to share knowledge with the various actors in society concerned with the impact of disinformation on the democratic process and to support the strengthening of processes that seek to reduce and avoid these imbalances, always in search of a society more just, ethical, equitable and democratic.”

(Read more about NED’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.)