Bolsonaro Bans Social Networks From Removing Some Posts

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is temporarily banning social media companies from removing certain content. if the vote is fraudulent — one of the most important steps a democratically elected leader takes to control what may be said on the Internet.

NS new social media rulesAccording to internet law experts and officials at tech companies, released this week and effective immediately, it marks the first time a national government has blocked internet companies from removing content that violates its rules. And they come at a dangerous moment for Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro used social media as a megaphone to build his political movement and bring him into the office of the president. Now he’s using sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to try it out, with polls showing he’ll lose the presidential election today. undermine the legitimacy of votes, following the playbook his close ally former President Donald J. Trump. On Tuesday, Mr. Bolsonaro repeated his election-related allegations to his thousands of supporters in the two cities. Nationwide demonstrations on Brazil’s Independence Day.

Under the new policy, tech companies can only remove posts if they contain certain topics. size specifiedsuch as nudity, drugs and violence, or that incite crime or infringe copyright; they must obtain a court order to overthrow others. This shows that in Brazil tech companies could easily remove a nude photo, but not lie about the coronavirus. The pandemic has been a major issue of disinformation under Mr Bolsonaro, who owns Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all. removed videos It’s him who pushed unproven drugs as a coronavirus treatment.

“You can imagine how difficult it would be for a major platform to take a judicial decision for every single piece of disinformation they find,” said Carlos Affonso Souza, a law professor at Rio de Janeiro State University.

Brazil’s new internet rules are the latest effort in the world. a bigger fight that conservatives are fighting against Silicon Valley. Politicians and experts on the right He argued that technology companies censor conservative voicesand they increasingly enforced laws that made it difficult for social networks to remove posts or accounts from their sites.

Florida passed a law in May. good internet companies a federal judge who bans any political candidate from their site blocked after a month. The Texas governor is expected to take office soon. sign a bill similar to law. Other countries have proposed similar legislation, but Brazil’s new policy appeared to be the most important measure to be enacted at the national level.

Inside a Twitter postMr Bolsonaro’s government said the policy “prohibits removal of content that could result in ‘censorship of any kind of political, ideological, scientific, artistic or religious order’.

In addition to limiting what types of posts companies can remove, the rules may also require tech companies to justify removing any post or any account, including those containing protected exceptions. The government can then force companies to take back the post or account if they decide the removal is unwarranted.

Tech companies quickly criticized the new policy. Facebook said the measure “significantly hinders our ability to limit abuse on our platforms” and that the company agrees “with legal experts and experts who view the measure as a violation of constitutional rights”.

Twitter said the policy changed the current internet law in Brazil and “undermines the values ​​and consensus on which it was built”.

YouTube said it was still analyzing the law before making any changes. “We will continue to clarify the importance of our policies and the risks to our users and creators if we fail to enforce them,” the company said.

Facebook said it has yet to change the way it moderates content in Brazil. Twitter declined to say. It was unclear how the measure would affect content outside of Brazil.

While far-reaching, the new rules likely won’t last long, according to political and legal analysts watching Brazil. Mr Bolsonaro issued these as a so-called temporary measure, a sort of emergency order aimed at handling emergencies. Such measures expire in 120 days unless the Brazilian Congress makes them permanent. Some members of Congress have already openly opposed the measure, and five political parties and a Brazilian senator have filed lawsuits with the country’s Supreme Court seeking to prevent it.

But Mr Bolsonaro told his supporters at a rally on Tuesday that he would ignore the decisions of a Supreme Court judge who helped conduct investigations into Mr Bolsonaro’s administration. worrying observers around the world He said the president threatened Brazilian democracy.

Mr Bolsonaro has taken other steps to make it harder to combat online disinformation. For example, this month it vetoed part of a national security law that provides for criminal penalties for those found guilty of orchestrating mass disinformation campaigns.

Matthew Taylor, director Brazilian Research Initiative At American University, he said Mr Bolsonaro used internet policy to rally his supporters and distract them from scandals about his handling of the pandemic and his conflicts with the courts. Mr Bolsonaro has described this moment as crucial to the fate of his political movement.

“The timing was not a mistake,” Mr Taylor said of the policy that went into effect. on the eve of the protests What Mr Bolsonaro hoped would be to mobilize support for his embattled presidency. “This plays to Bolsonaro’s domestic audience.”

Brazilian government In his post on Twitter, he said: He said he was “assuming global leadership in defending freedom of expression on social networks and protecting citizens’ right to freedom of thought and expression.” The government did not respond to requests for further comment.

Law professor Mr Affonso Souza said that while temporary measures like this take effect immediately, companies have 30 days to update their policies before they face penalties. He said the country’s Supreme Court could lift the measure before internet companies had to comply, but argued that it set a dangerous precedent.

The president said he has created a way to ensure that disinformation “stays on the internet and makes it easier to spread.”

Mr Bolsonaro has alarmed many sectors of Brazil in recent months with his increasingly authoritarian responses to a series of political crises, including a spiraling epidemic, economic woes, criminal investigations into himself and his family, and falling poll numbers. It attacked Brazil’s electronic voting system. a reason to discount the upcoming electionand he recently told his supporters that his presidency has only three consequences: He is re-elected, imprisoned, or killed.

In July, YouTube removed 15 videos of Mr. Bolsonaro to spread false information about the coronavirus. And late last month, YouTube, at the behest of a Brazilian court, Stopped payments to 14 pro-Bolsonaro channels this spread misinformation about the upcoming presidential election next year.

Brazil’s Supreme Court is also investigating disinformation operations in the country. Mr Bolsonaro became the target of these investigations last month, and many of his allies have been questioned or detained.

This week, Jason MillerOne of Mr Trump’s former advisers was detained for three hours at an airport in Brasília, the country’s capital, where he was traveling for a conservative political conference. In an interview, Mr. Miller said authorities had told him they were questioning him as part of the Supreme Court investigation. “It was ridiculous,” he said. “It really shows how much free speech is under attack in the country of Brazil.”

Mr Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist who won the 2018 presidential election, has long been compared to Mr Trump. Recent actions, including allegations of fraudulent elections, coronavirus skepticism, and complaints about Big Tech censorship, have deepened the similarities.

Mr Trump, tech companies lost their speaker this year kicked it off their site For his comments on the printing of the US Capitol in January.

Recently, Mr. Bolsonaro has sought to reduce his reliance on big tech companies. On Monday, he urged people on Twitter and Facebook to follow him on Telegram, a messaging service with a more practical approach to content.

Daphne Keller, who teaches internet law at Stanford University, said conservative politicians have proposed laws like the Brazilian measure in the United States, Poland and Mexico, but none have passed.

“If platforms have to carry everything legal, they will turn into horrible dumps that no one wants to use,” Keller said. “It is a mechanism for the government to put their fingers on the scales to tell what is seen on the internet.”

Lis Moriconi contributed to the reporting.

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