Protests in Brazil: the collaborative riots

Something changed in Brazil and we’re still trying to figure out what really happened. Suddenly everybody is out on the streets protesting against problems that are so old they are considered part of the Brazilian culture by now. It’s really hard to pinpoint one thing that led to all of this amazing commotion but one aspect really stands out and that is how big of a role online social networks played in the planning and organization of all these movements. The very first protest that arguably set off all other riots in Brazil happened in the city of Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul state in the extreme south of the country.

After a new law raised bus fare by R$0,20 (~U$ 0,09), a lot of people were left outraged. So some of them created a Facebook group and started discussing about the issue and how they could do something about it. They decided to organize a protest but obviously they didn’t have any money to engage more people in the cause. They started sharing pictures and information about how unfair the way fares and the entire system was handled in Porto Alegre. By doing that campaign using social media they were able to bring about 10.000 people to the first rally! However, as we’ve seen in other collaborative initiatives, the positive effect didn’t end there and the message continued to spread throughout Brazil, causing the issue to be heard by people all over the country. The result is what was shown in every TV station around the globe recently.

The riots are so collaborative in their essence due to the crowdsourced way they were created that the traditional media refers to the movement as the first movement with no leader, being only people demanding a better country as equals.

This image shows the involvement of Brazilians in social networks mapped by Brandviewer (hashtag analyzer tool). In red we see the regions with the highest number of hashtags about the movements posted. The two most successful hashtags were: #ogiganteacordou (“the giant (Brazil) woke up”), #vemprarua (“come to the streets”).


And on top of the movement itself being collaborative we are also seeing other types of collaboration through platforms created specifically for the protests like:

    • – This website is a map tool where the manifestants can report all sort of relevant information about the riots: police hostility, safe places for shelter, wi-fi spots, civil violence, ETC. By now the website has a lot of reports and valuable knowledge about the rallies making the entire thing safer for everyone.

    • The Guardian – Brazil Protests – This is a collaborative website created by the British newspaper The Guardian, where they ask people from Brazil to send them pictures and reports about the riots creating a very good photo gallery and information center completely crowdsourced.

Ironically, one can say that a lot of the problems Brazilians are outraged about could be solved by the same collaborative approach used to initiate this movement. Things like car sharing and ride-sharing platforms could help to address one of the most mentioned problems in the riots which was urban mobility. Unfortunately, platforms like these wouldn’t be approved by the local government. Most of the participants of the riots ask for better public services and they demand it from the state. The idea of self organized collaboration platforms is very unheard to Brazilians. This directly impacts the way Brazilians relate to public services since the only vision they have is that such services must be provided by the government.

Brazil is the 6th largest economy in the world but also one of the most regulated, making it tough for collaborative solutions to spread. This heavy regulation discourage collaborative consumption companies to invest in the attempt of making their solutions known to the local public. Just so we can have a clearer idea about this, the World Bank released a study this year ranking the countries in order of Ease of Doing Business and from the 185 countries in the study, Brazil ranked 130th. For example, it’s actually easier to do business in Bosnia than it is in Brazil.

The Sharing Economy is taking the world by storm and it’s being very successful in building trust among people. The challenges of this kind of economy are being met with creativity and technology allocating resources in a much more efficient way. Even though it’s impossible to stop something so economically and socially superior, bad government policies and regulations can definitely slow down the pace of this evolution. We are seeing a major shift in Brazil and even though the outcome of this is still a little unpredictable, one thing is for sure: the country will never be the same again. With that said, there has never been a better time for the ideas of this new economy to reach the ears of the Brazilians who are now finally playing a main role in the history of the country.


by Giovanni Nervo

5 thoughts on “Protests in Brazil: the collaborative riots

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