CORRESPONDENCE

Social media are fuelling the Amazon’s destruction

The same technological tools that spread misinformation and influence elections are now taking aim at our natural world. Misinformation campaigns on social media are particularly rampant and troubling in Brazil.

In the past year, backers of Jair Bolsonaro’s government burnt vast tracts of the Amazon rainforest to support large-scale agribusiness, further accelerating the current rate of Amazonian deforestation (see go.nature.com/341rxda). These environmental atrocities are being denied on social media, despite evidence from Brazil’s own National Institute for Space Research (INPE).

Bolsonaro seeks to end fines for environmental crimes. He has accused scientists of falsifying data (see go.nature.com/341bj4e; in Portuguese) and, last August, he dismissed INPE director Ricardo Galvão — listed in Nature as one of the ten most important scientists of 2019 (Nature 576, 361–372; 2019). He is also demeaning and demoralizing Amazonian Indians, who have inhabited these forests for millennia, in his Facebook broadcasts — probably, in our view, to justify the exploitation and environmental degradation.

Moreover, the flames of last summer’s fires in the Amazon were fanned on social media: individual actions were coordinated and amplified to inflict irreversible damage on this unique ecosystem. We call for a renewed commitment to trustworthy information and to those who fight for the rights of all living beings.

Nature 580, 321 (2020)

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