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How Brazil is cracking down on its online racism

Brazilians who post racist remarks online are now running the risk of having their words republished where all their neighbors can see.

The "Virtual Racism, Real Consequences" campaign in Brazil is exposing online racism, by reproducing the offending remarks on billboards near where the perpetrator lives.

To highlight this behavior, civil rights group, Criola, teamed up with creative agency, W3haus, used geo-location to map out the areas where those who posted offensive comments lived.

Next, they hired out billboard spaces and other forms of out-of-home media, near the residence of each of the culprits, to expose the online offence. However, the identities of those involved remain blurred.

"Virtual Racism. Real Consequences" campaign. Rough translation of billboard: "If you washed properly, you wouldn't be so dirty."
Credit: Criola and “Virtual Racism. The consequences are real” campaign
"Virtual Racism. Real Consequences" campaign. Rough translation of billboard: "If you washed properly, you wouldn't be so dirty."

Launched in July 2015, motivation behind the campaign surfaced after Brazilian journalist, Maria Júlia Coutinho became a victim of abuse on the Facebook page of Jornal Nacional, a Brazilian prime-time news show.

The Brazilian Constitution states racism as a non-bailable crime, with online racism—to any person, famous or not—also indictable, according to Criola's founder, Jurema Werneck.

"We hope that this campaign helps society to make a stand against this setback. We don't want to see racists in jail. We want the racism to not happen anymore," Werneck told CNBC via email.

As the campaign's objective isn't to expose the perpetrators but rather what's happening online, Werneck hopes the initiative will show victims that they have support.

"We want to pass a message on to the victims, saying they are not alone. We are here to support them and fight with them."

Billboard from the "Virtual Racism. The consequences are real" campaign
Credit: Criola and “Virtual Racism. The consequences are real” campaign
Billboard from the "Virtual Racism. The consequences are real" campaign

Not only does the campaign confirm that racist comments can be caught out by institutions, but by placing billboards near where racists live, it draws attention to neighborhoods on what's happening in their backyards. The first locations to receive the campaign included Recife, Vila Velha and Feira de Santana. It has now expanded to cities like Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre.

"It is necessary to perform campaigns like this to break the vicious circle of racism and, this way, to encourage the creation and strengthening of public policies for the most vulnerable populations and make social progress a reality for everyone, regardless of their racial or ethnic origin."

"I believe this campaign can and should expand to other places where black people go through these situations. Although many countries have achieved important social progress, social inequalities persist and affect the lives of children, young and adult people. People from other countries who are suffering with this issue would benefit greatly."