1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Fact check: Fakes about the Brazil riots

January 10, 2023

The claims made on social networks included that President Lula had been evacuated and the internet shut down. Others claimed to have seen a Brazilian version of the "Shaman" — or even air strikes. DW checks the facts.

Supporters of Brazil's former President Jair Bolsonaro are pictured through a broken glass
Fake claims surrounding the events in Brazil on Sunday quickly circulated on social mediaImage: Adriano Machado/REUTERS

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva evacuated from Brasilia?

Claim: Multiple Twitter users claimed that President Lula  had been evacuated from the capital Brasilia and was taken to a safe place after hundreds of far-right supporters of former President Jair Bolsonaro stormed the National Congress building, the Supreme Court premises and the presidential palace.

DW fact check: False.

Several news agencies reported that Lula was not in the capital at the time of the attack. According to media reports Lula was actually in Araraquara, a city in the state of Sao Paulo.

Lula himself wrote on Twitter that he just reached Araraquara when he first saw the reports of what’s happening in Brasilia. He then immediately returned to the capital.

Brazilian shaman at the scene of the attacks?

Claim: Several social media posts shared a picture of a man who looked like the Brazilian version of the "QAnon shaman," who made headlines during the US Capitol attacks in 2021. The man was said to be wearing the Brazilian national colors with horns attached to his headwear and seen at the scene of Sunday's riots.

Faktencheck QAnon Brasil EN

DW fact check: False

The picture is indeed real and shows a Bolsonaro supporter who appears to have been inspired by the infamous "QAnon shaman" known also as "bison man"Jake Angeli, who is currently serving a prison sentence because of his role in the Jan 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. But the Brazilian picture being shared on social media does not have anything to do with Sunday's riot. A reverse image search with TinEye reveals that the picture has been circulating since 2021. The German news agency DPA also reported that the image was from a demonstration of Bolsonaro's supporters in Sao Paulo on September 7, 2021. It was also used by the Brazilian newspapers Diario do Centro do Mundo and Brasil de Fato in the same month.

Brasil de Fato's article has credited the picture to the photographer Guilherme Gandolfi. Further research shows that the image is available for sale in his journalistic images databank also dated September 7, 2021.

Supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by US Capitol Police officers
Conspiracy theorist Jake Angeli became a symbol of the storming of the US Capitol in 2021Image: Manuel Balce Ceneta/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

Internet shutdown in Brazil?

Claim:  A widely circulated message on social media claimed that Alexandre de Moraes, the Brazilian Supreme Court Justice and President of the Superior Electoral Court, had issued an order to shutdown the internet across Brazil. The information was attributed to "a CNN journalist."

DW fact check: False

There are no such reports available on CNN's network or other media websites, and not on the websites of the Supreme Court Justice and the Superior Electoral Court. The Brazilian fact-checking website Lupa has debunked the claim and found that no such orders were issued by Moraes.

Lupa wrote that "it is worth pointing out that it is not Moraes' job to forward 'extrajudicial notifications,' but to make decisions through cases analyzed by the court."

Incorrect reports of an internet shutdown were also circulated last year after Bolsonaro's defeat in the elections, according to Lupa.

Video games used to claim air strikes

Claim: A video in a tweet claims that Brazilian protesters fired on government planes with improvised anti-aircraft guns. It goes on to say that "these home built weapons are very inaccurate."

Factcheck Videogame Brasil EN

DW fact check: False

This is a clip from a popular video game called Arma series, developed by the Czech studio Bohemia Interactive. Many clips of the game series are available on Youtube and you can find exactly this scene there, at the 01:39 minute mark.

It is not the first time the video game has been misrepresented. Similar cases came to light during the Afghanistan crisis and the war in Ukraine, when social media users and even mainstream media spread disinformation based on this video game. Last year, the company appealed to users to stop using their games to spread fake news.

But the Twitter post was watched more than 140,000 times and retweeted widely. The post had not been marked as "manipulated media" by Twitter at the time of writing.

Edited by: Rob Mudge