Bolsonaro prohibits social networks from deleting certain messages

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro temporarily bans social media companies from removing certain content, including his claims the only ...


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro temporarily bans social media companies from removing certain content, including his claims the only way for him to lose next year’s election it’s if the vote is rigged – one of the most important steps for a democratically elected leader to control what can be said on the Internet.

The new social media rules, released this week and taking effect immediately, appears to be the first time a national government has stopped internet companies from removing content that breaks their rules, according to internet law experts and tech company officials. And they come at a precarious time for Brazil.

Mr Bolsonaro used social media as a megaphone to build his political movement and get to the president’s office. Now, with polls showing he would lose the presidential elections if they were held today, he is using sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to try to undermine the legitimacy of the vote, according to the playbook of his close ally, former President Donald J. Trump. On Tuesday, Bolsonaro reiterated his claims about electing thousands of supporters in two cities as part of nationwide protests on brazilian independence day.

Under the new policy, tech companies can only delete posts if they relate to certain topics. described in the measure, such as nudity, drugs and violence, or if they encourage crime or infringe copyright; to shoot the others, they have to get a court order. This suggests that in Brazil, tech companies could easily delete a nude photo, but not the lies about the coronavirus. The pandemic has been a major subject of misinformation under Mr. Bolsonaro, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all having deleted videos from him pushing unproven drugs as coronavirus cures.

“You can only imagine how difficult it would be for a large platform to get a court order for every piece of disinformation it finds,” said Carlos Affonso Souza, professor of law at the University of ‘State of Rio de Janeiro.

Brazil’s new internet rules are the latest effort in a larger fight that the Conservatives are leading against Silicon Valley. Politicians and Experts on the right argued that tech companies are censor conservative voices, and increasingly, they’ve pushed for laws making it harder for social media to remove posts or accounts from their sites.

Florida passed a law in May that beautiful internet companies who ban any political candidate from their sites, although a federal judge blocked a month later. The governor of Texas is expected soon sign a similar bill. Other countries have proposed similar legislation, but Brazil’s new policy appears to be the most important measure to be adopted at the national level.

In a Twitter post, Mr. Bolsonaro’s government said the policy “prohibits the removal of content that could result in any type of” political, ideological, scientific, artistic or religious censorship. “

In addition to limiting the types of posts that companies can remove, the rules can also require tech companies to justify the removal of any post or account, even those involving protected exceptions. The government can then force companies to reinstate the position or account if it decides the deletion was not warranted.

Tech companies were quick to criticize the new policy. Facebook said the “measure significantly hinders our ability to curb abuse on our platforms” and the company agrees “with legal experts and scholars who view the measure as a violation of constitutional rights.”

Twitter said the policy transforms existing Internet law in Brazil, “and undermines the values ​​and consensus on which it was built.”

YouTube said it always analyzes the law before making any changes. “We will continue to communicate the importance of our policies and the risks to our users and creators if we cannot apply them,” the company said.

Facebook said it has yet to change the way it controls content in Brazil. Twitter declined to say so. It was not clear how the measure would affect content outside of Brazil.

Broad as they are, the new rules are unlikely to last, according to political and legal analysts following Brazil. Mr Bolsonaro issued them as a so-called provisional measure, a kind of emergency order intended to deal with emergency situations. These measures expire in 120 days if the Brazilian Congress does not make them permanent. Some members of Congress have already publicly opposed the measure, and five political parties and a Brazilian senator have filed lawsuits with the country’s Supreme Court in an attempt to block it.

But Mr Bolsonaro told his supporters at a rally on Tuesday that he would ignore the rulings of a Supreme Court judge who helped investigate Mr Bolsonaro’s administration, alarm observers around the world that the president threatens Brazilian democracy.

Mr Bolsonaro has taken other steps to make disinformation online more difficult to combat. This month, for example, he vetoed part of a national security law that would have set criminal penalties for those convicted of orchestrating mass disinformation campaigns.

Matthew Taylor, Director of Brazil research initiative at the American University, said Bolsonaro was using internet politics to rally supporters and deflect attention from scandals around his handling of the pandemic and his clashes with the courts. Mr Bolsonaro described this moment as crucial for the fate of his political movement.

“The timing was not a mistake,” Mr Taylor said of the policy, which was adopted on the eve of the demonstrations that Mr Bolsonaro had hoped to garner support for his struggling presidency. “It plays out for Bolsonaro’s national audience.”

Brazilian government said in his message on Twitter that he “took the global initiative to defend freedom of expression on social networks and to protect the right of citizens to freedom of thought and expression”. The government did not respond to requests for further comment.

While interim measures like this take effect immediately, companies have 30 days to update their policies before incurring sanctions, said Mr. Affonso Souza, a professor of law. He said the country’s Supreme Court could overturn the measure before internet companies are forced to comply, but argued it had set a dangerous precedent.

The president, he said, had created a way to ensure that disinformation “stays on the Internet and facilitates its 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 pandemic, economic hardship, legal inquiries into him and his family and polls in decrease. He attacked Brazil’s electronic voting system as a reason to ignore the next election, and he recently told his supporters that there were only three outcomes for his presidency: he was reelected, jailed or killed.

In July, YouTube deleted 15 of Mr. Bolsonaro’s videos for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. And at the end of last month, YouTube said that, by order of a Brazilian court, it had stopped payments to 14 pro-Bolsonaro channels who had spread false information about next year’s presidential elections.

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

This week, Jason miller, a former adviser to Mr. Trump, was held for three hours at an airport in Brasilia, the nation’s capital, where he had traveled for a conservative political conference. In an interview, Mr Miller said authorities told him they were questioning him as part of a Supreme Court investigation. “It was ridiculous,” he said. “It really shows how much freedom of 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. His recent actions – including allegations of rigged elections, skepticism of the coronavirus, and complaints about Big Tech censorship – have deepened the similarities.

Mr. Trump lost his speaker this year when tech companies kicked it off their sites for comments he made regarding the storming of the United States Capitol in January.

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

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

“If the rigs are to haul anything legal, they will turn into horrible sumps that no one will want to use,” Ms. Keller said. “It is a mechanism for the government to put its thumb on the scales to say what is seen on the Internet.”

Lis Moriconi contributed reporting.



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Newsrust - US Top News: Bolsonaro prohibits social networks from deleting certain messages
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