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The Internet for the Public Interest: Overcoming the digital divide in Brazil

Matos, C. (2014). The Internet for the Public Interest: Overcoming the digital divide in Brazil. In: Martens, C., McChesney, R. & Vivaveres, E (Eds.), The International Political Economy of Communication: Media and Power in South America. . Palgrave Macmillan.


The re-democratization of Latin America’s social and political institutions since the 1990s has seen various changes affecting the whole continent following from the collapse of military dictatorships in the mid-80s., from the adoption of economic neoliberal reforms and demands for social and economic inclusion to calls for wider equality for less privileged groups and updated media reforms and regulation policies directed to the public interest. A key global geopolitical player in Latin America, Brazil has managed to reduce poverty levels and grow its middle class, but little has changed in the media sphere, which is still heavily skewed towards the market and highly concentrated.
The Internet nonetheless has slowly emerged as a powerful counter-public sphere that is invigorating debate, challenging the status quo and creating avenues for wider political pluralism. It is also beginning to provide a space for the articulation of new ideas, for the criticism of the media’s self-proclaimed objectivity during presidential elections and is opening up possibilities for more complex and less stereotypical representations of subordinated groups. It is also assisting civil society players and other citizens in political mobilizations and organizations of protests against the limits of the social and economic reforms carried out in the last decade by Brazilian centre-left to centre governments, as the June 2013 demonstrations showed.
Since the late 1990s, the World Wide Web has began to be actively used for political campaigning. It was used by female politicians like Dilma Rousseff and Marina da Silva during the 2010 presidential elections to advocate their causes and mobilize voters. Nonetheless, the lack of access of less privileged sectors of the Brazilian population to the Internet poses problems for its democratization and use for political mobilization, its capacity to offer challenging counter-discourses and criticism of politicians and policies as well as its general use for the public interest. In this paper I argue that despite problems of lack of access to the web in Brazil, the potential of the Internet for democratization is strong and is already having a powerful role in not only political mobilization, but in contributing to challenge taken for granted discourses, boosting diversity and undermining the concentration of the market media.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: Matos, C., Regional responses to media regulation: the International Political Economy of the Media in South America, 2014, Palgrave Macmillan reproduced with permission of Palgrave Macmillan This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. The definitive, published, version of record is available here:
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
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