Tag Archives: Brazil

Brazilian government attacks data journalist for reporting app that prescribes ineffective treatments for COVID-19

Mayra Pinheiro fala à CPI da Covid

Government says journalist “extracted data improperly” — but the journalist affirms that he only used a browser’s Inspect Element tool, reports Beatriz Farrugia.

Data journalism has been at the centre of a political debate in Brazil for two weeks after President Jair Bolsonaro’s government made allegations against a data journalist — for extracting data from a web app developed by the Brazilian Ministry of Health to prescribe treatments against COVID-19. 

The TrateCov app was launched in January 2021 for Brazilian doctors. Professionals were told they would be able to enter a patient’s profile and symptoms into the app, which would then suggest medication. 

However, the data journalist Rodrigo Menegat analyzed the app’s source code and found that, regardless of the patient’s symptoms, age and health conditions, TrateCov indicated the use of chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin — drugs with no scientific evidence supporting their use in the treatment of coronavirus. 

He announced his discovery on 20 January in a series of tweets. “Guys,” he wrote:

“I just put in the TrateCov app that my patient is a one week-old newborn who has a stomach ache and a runny nose. The app recommended chloroquine, ivermectin, azithromycin and everything else. Crime, crime, crime, crime.”

Other journalists and broadcasters tested the app and came to the same conclusion.

CNN Brazil reported that it simulated a query for a baby aged five months, with symptoms of fever and nasal congestion. The treatment recommended by TrateCov was chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin.

Soon after the complaints, the app was removed by the Brazilian Government.

Accused of committing cyber crime

Then on May 25th, during a public session of a parliamentary inquiry, Menegat was accused of having committed cyber crime by an official of the Brazilian Ministry of Health: Mayra Pinheiro

The parliamentary inquiry, opened late last month, is investigating the Bolsonaro government’s response to the pandemic. More than 461,000 people have died in Brazil so far. 

Approved by Brazil’s Supreme Court, the inquiry is pursuing multiple lines of investigation, such as why the Brazilian government promoted ineffective treatments and why three health ministers were removed over the pandemic. 

Naming the data journalist, Pinheiro said Menegat performed an “improper data extraction”. 

“He was unable to hack,” said Mayra. “He did an improper data extraction. Hacking is when you use someone’s password, enter a platform, a system. The term is not hacking. Today we have the official report that classifies it as improper data extraction.

“He did improper simulations. [The system] was taken down for investigation.”

In another testimony session to the parliamentary inquiry the previous week the former Health Minister General Eduardo Pazuello said that the app had been “stolen and hacked by a citizen”. 

After the allegations the data journalist explained that he had only used the browser’s Inspect Element tool to analyse the source code. 

“As a data journalist and developer, I only analyzed the source code which was public and available on the website of the TrateCov app, saved on a government server (https://tratecov.saude.gov.br) and accessible to any internet user curious enough to do this verification on their own.”

“The procedure has in no way altered any content on the platform”, he added. 

Since the allegations Menegat has limited his social media accounts to avoid online attacks by government supporters. 

“I am closing my Twitter account for more than an obvious reason, but I will be very pleased to show who wants to know how to use the Element Inspector to access source code from any website in the world,” wrote the journalist. 

Other Brazilian data journalists showed support for Menegat and published content explaining the technique used to analyse the app.

“The alleged hacking of the TrateCov application was nothing more than a journalistic investigation technique already used in newsrooms around the world,” said Daniel Trielli, journalist and researcher in media, technology and society, in an article published by the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper.

“Systems would go offline for days just to delay the release of data” – Rodrigo Menegat on Covid-19 data journalism in Brazil

In a guest post for OJB, Rodrigo George Willoughby spoke to data journalist Rodrigo Menegat about reporting on Covid-19 in Brazil, managing uncertainty and how data journalism could help debunk misinformation.

At the height of the first wave of the coronavirus pandemic in March, data on the disease was in high demand. It required collaboration — something made more difficult with data lacking in quality.

Having spent most of his career covering politics, last year Rodrigo Menegat realised that science data — particularly Covid-19 data — was fast becoming a staple in the newsroom. 

“The first challenge was learning how to cover data which is very different to sport or politics,” he says.

The difficulty was understanding something that, as a country, Brazil was not ready to face. Continue reading

Is there a ‘canon’ of data journalism? Comment call!

Looking across the comments in the first discussion of the EJC’s data journalism MOOC it struck me that some pieces of work in the field come up again and again. I thought I’d pull those together quickly here and ask: is this the beginnings of a ‘canon’ in data journalism? And what should such a canon include? Stick with me past the first obvious examples…

Early data vis

These examples of early data visualisation are so well-known now that one book proposal I recently saw specified that it would not talk about them. I’m talking of course about… Continue reading

The best online projects that monitored Brazil’s 2010 Elections

“Last year, electoral reform opened the door for politics 2.0 by authorizing parties to use social networks to raise campaign donations and participate in streamlined debates”, claims Manuella Ribeiro about the recent Brazilian election that made Dilma Rousseff the new president.

Ribeiro made a compilation of the best online projects that worked on transparency, civic engagement and public policies monitors. Here are my personal favorites:

eu lembro

Eu lembro: “Be a voter with an elephant’s memory. Vote and remember everything that happens to politicians”.

VotenaWeb: “A site where you can approach the decisions of National Congress that directly affect your life. Vote and be heard”. Citizens can compare, with an easy interface, their votes on bills and the votes of politicians. The congressional bills are translated into simple language and you can monitor the voting records of different candidates.

Quanto vale seu candidato?: in English “How much is your candidate worth?” is a nice piece of data journalism with information about the patrimony of candidates.

eleitor 2010

Eleitor 2010: developed with Ushahidi to monitor the elections, receive and map complaints about electoral crimes through Twitter, SMS, email and social networks.

Adote um Vereador: encourages citizens to “adopt” a city councilman and open blog about their work to keep an eye on them and their parliamentary activities.

Online Journalism Atlas: online journalism in Brazil

In the first part of the Online Journalism Atlas, Gabriela Zago looks at online journalism in Brazil. Got any information about your own country’s online journalism? Add it here.

Online journalism in Brazil has grown a lot in the last few years, especially in the last 12 months. Many websites have changed their models recently, going from a traditional style to a more “web 2.0” concept. The community participation and the use of new tools are growing since then. Blogs are a constant. Continue reading