Publications

A conspiracy theory that began as a throwaway joke in 2001 was amplified on YouTube and ended up being seriously quoted in a debate between Brazil’s presidential candidates on August 9.

YouTube played an important role in the spread of the ­­United Socialist Republics of Latin America (URSAL) conspiracy theory in Brazil. YouTube algorithms consistently expose viewers who watch URSAL-related content to recommendations for other conspiracy-prone topics, making the theory an entryway into further online disinformation and potential radicalization.

The acronym “URSAL” was coined as a throwaway comment in an article 17 years ago. It was subsequently taken up by far-right supporters who took it seriously and later resurfaced on YouTube, finally being denounced as a genuine Communist conspiracy by a candidate during the first presidential debate in Brazil.

The incident shows the audience impact on YouTube, and the danger its algorithms pose in steering viewers toward content promoting fictitious conspiracy theories.

Read the full analysis on Medium.
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Growing international trade and economic ties between the United States and India increasingly shape bilateral relations. However, major challenges including deficiencies in infrastructure, business practices, and protectionist policies pose complex challenges for the future of the US-India trade relationship. The Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center launched the “Unlocking US-India Trade Potential Conference” in Bengaluru, India in November 2017 to address these challenges and explore policy recommendations to further facilitate economic partnership. This report outlines the key discussions that unfolded at the conference and the recommendations offered by experts to elevate the trade relationship between the United States and India to new heights.

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Today, Moldova is the site of a competition between two groups, vying for the country’s domestic and geopolitical orientation; Russia on the one hand and the United States and European Union on the other. Recent Russian policy documents, such as the Foreign Policy Concepts released in 2016, all identify the post-Soviet space as one of Moscow’s top priorities. Moldova does not top of the list in this region, but it is far more significant for Russian policy makers than most Western interlocutors realize.

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The first presidential debate ahead of Brazil’s October election took place on Thursday, August 10. An analysis of online engagement around the televised event concluded that automated profiles comprised only around 3 percent of total interactions and that statements classified as “fake” by fact-checking agency Lupa (a partner of FGV DAPP’s Digital Democracy Room) had little impact on broader conversations. Yet for the first time since the pre-campaign period began, one piece of unverifiable news appeared among the top ten trending articles on social media. The piece, published by the website República de Curitiba, claimed Twitter “removed” mentions of right-wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro from the platform during the debate.

Read the full analysis on Medium.

 
Ahead of Brazil’s presidential elections, a group of apparently young Brazilians is running a network of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts to trade engagement — likes, followers, and pages — for cash.

The network was involved in boosting partisan, election-related content in Mexico. With Brazil’s own election due on October 7, this network has the potential to reproduce its Mexican operations much closer to home.

Read the full analysis on Medium.

Brazil’s race for the next president is narrowing by the day. Of the fourteen candidates announced as of the beginning of August, five viable front-runners have emerged.


In this Spotlight, we ask: With Brazil’s presidential campaign set to officially kick off, what could an October win for one of the top contenders mean for political and economic reforms, foreign direct investment (FDI), and security?
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While the West continues to support efforts to democratize the countries of the Eastern Partnership (EaP), shifting international trends threaten to slow the momentum. Increasing confrontation among Western leaders—evidenced, inter alia, by the outbreak of protectionist trade policies and Donald Trump’s dissociation from G7 positions at the June 2018 summit in Quebec—can have unintended consequences across the EaP region, which needs Western harmony if it is to align with Euro-Atlantic visions of common values and security.

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During recent elections in Colombia, entities on all ends of the political spectrum spread misinformation and editorialized to suit varied agendas. The trend was on full display in the sharing patterns of four very partisan media outlets: Elnodo.co, elexpediente.co, oiganoticias.co and voces.com.co. The first three were right-wing biased, while the last was left-wing, specifically anti-Uribista: it had an agenda against the ideas and actions of former president Álvaro Uribe Vélez. 

The success of these partisan media outlets in the recent elections is a testament to the increasing polarization among Colombian audiences. Moreover, it also shows how these new online-only media startups are emerging and took a good chunk of the traditional media’s audience and advertising cake.

Read the full analysis on Medium.
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Recent Sino-Indian and Indo-Russian informal agreements to undertake joint projects in Afghanistan mark a geographical paradigm shift in the strategic ambitions of the region’s largest stakeholders. Partnerships in economic and regional connectivity offer the potential to reinvigorate interest in the Afghan peace process and to initiate shifts in regional alignments. But challenges to cooperation remain, including uncertainties regarding US policy in South Asia and Iranian sanctions, the threat of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran spilling over into the region, the role of Pakistan, and questions regarding the ultimate agenda of the Taliban. Despite these challenges, the opportunity for cooperation between India, China and Russia in the region signals new thinking regarding the Afghan War, and the potential beginning of enhanced cooperation between key stakeholders of an increasingly volatile and unpredictable international system.

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Since the recession of 2008-09, the Russian economy has experienced dramatic highs and lows. Oil prices, sanctions, and geopolitics have all had an impact. Dr. Sergey Aleksashenko, a nonresident senior fellow for global economy and development at the Brookings Institution, analyzes the scale of the impact and the impact of the Russian government's economic and financial support. Dr. Aleksashenko discusses the short-term constraints and the long term challenges for Russian economic growth.

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