SAO PAULO – Brazil ruled Twitter briefly on Wednesday, as this nation of more than 200 million turned its attention to the judges who were ruling on an appeal of a corruption conviction against former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
As the day wore on, two appellate court judges voted to uphold the graft conviction, raising the specter that the former leader won't be able to run in October for Brazil's top job despite holding a lead in the polls.
But for a few hours as the appeals decision was broadcast live, three of the top 10 topics trending worldwide on Twitter were about the case. The vast quantity of tweets about the case — more than 520,000 by early evening — showed the power of social-media mad Brazil to force its way into the global conversation.
They also displayed the trademark Brazilian ability to maintain a sense of humor even as the judges' rulings polarized the country and threatened to impact the country's political stability.
For several hours, the hashtag "MoluscoNaCadeia," or "MolluskInJail," topped the worldwide trending topics list. That's a play on the fact that da Silva is universally known as "Lula," which is a common nickname for Luiz but also means squid in Portuguese.
Reflecting the other side of the debate, the hashtag "CadeAProva," or "WhereIsTheProof," also trended.
Da Silva's supporters say he is being persecuted to keep him from running for the presidency again. Detractors note that da Silva and his left-leaning Workers' Party were running the country while a massive corruption scheme siphoned billions from state oil company Petrobras.
After judges voted to uphold the conviction, several users who were rooting for that outcome tweeted, "MAKE BRAZIL GREAT AGAIN," a twist on U.S. President Donald Trump's slogan during the 2016 campaign. User @jefferson_hegel wrote: "Corruption exists the world over, but a fan club for the corrupt only exists in Brazil."
Supporters of the former president insisted he was being railroaded. User @kazusugiyama tweeted: "I had proof against Lula here but my dog ate it."
Such political debates often take place on social media in Brazil, where research firm eMarketer estimates there are about 107 million social network users.