Episode 9: ‘The Rabbit Hole’
Producers/Directors Gemma Jordan and Alyse Shorland
A wave of vocal, right-wing provocateurs has been elected to public office in Brazil in recent years, riding a surge of enthusiasm from their loyal YouTube viewers. Watched more than almost any TV network in Brazil, the nearly ubiquitous social video platform even helped catapult a little-known populist named Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency.
Our correspondents Max Fisher and Amanda Taub found that in a country driven to the edge by economic and political crises, YouTube’s algorithms may have played a decisive role in Bolsonaro’s rise. The site’s recommendation feature boosts fringe videos into the mainstream and can unwittingly help spread conspiracies and misinformation about dangerous diseases, jeopardizing public health.
Max and Amanda go to Brazil to meet the YouTube stars-turned-politicians and speak to the targets of their divisive and often inflammatory online attacks.
During his campaign he praised the country’s military dictatorship, advocated torture, threatened his political opponents, denigrated women and seemed to show no regard for the country’s democratic principles.
At the height of the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, misinformation and conspiracy theories spread online. Our Science Desk looked at the most prominent theories making the rounds on social media, along with responses from scientists.
YouTube’s automated recommendation system — which drives most of the platform’s billions of views by suggesting what users should watch next — created a vast video catalog of prepubescent, partly clothed children, a team of researchers has found.
Director of Photography Andreas Burgess
Video Editor Marlon Singleton
Senior Story Editors Dan Barry, Liz O. Baylen and Liz Day
Associate Producers Lora Moftah and Valerie Schenkman
Additional Reporting Kate Steiker-Ginzberg and Mariana Simões