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Is Social Media a Democratic Forum for Public Accountability in Times of Crisis? The Brazilian Government's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dos Santos, Tassiani Aparecida; Lopes, Iago França


Iago França Lopes


The COVID-19 crisis has troubled the world. In the Brazilian context, many people struggled financially to survive a period of social isolation. Therefore, in the surge of the pandemic, making a decision or forming an opinion about government decisions was very complex. Social media plays an important role in modern society as a source of information and a potentially democratic instrument for dialogic communication and public accountability. Thus, this research investigates social media as a forum for democratic accountability during Brazil's first wave of the COVID-19 crisis. The methodological procedures comprise the analysis of three events concerning COVID-19 in São Paulo, namely the social isolation mandates from March to July, 2020. We gathered, coded, and analyzed 970 comments from the São Paulo government's official Facebook page. We found that the disclosure of information was limited, and users interacted with each other, but the government did not dialogue with citizens. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, we reflected on social media's potential and barriers to achieving democratic accountability in uncertain and risky times, particularly regarding information disclosure, social media and users' interactions, and the spread of relevant information. We conclude that social media is a forum to achieve greater accountability and responsibility on the part of public managers and governors. However, it is limited by what kind of information is conveyed, whether users get the responses and information they need from the official channel, and social media's political and democratic aspects, which are multifaceted and complex.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 8, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 24, 2024
Journal Abacus: A Journal of Accounting, Finance and Business Studies
Print ISSN 0001-3072
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Crisis; COVID-19; Dialogic Accounting; Democratic Accountability; Public Sector; Social Media
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