What is Brazil’s controversial legislation to govern disinformation online? Message-sharing service Telegram has called it a “attack on democracy,” while Google has said it “seriously threatens free speech.”
Here’s a quick rundown of measure 2630/2020, which has been called the “censorship bill” by its detractors and heralded as an essential defense against “fake news” and online extremism by its supporters.
Where did the commotion begin?
To combat the proliferation of false information on the internet, legislation was filed in 2020, but after clearing the Senate, it died in the House of Representatives.
After far-right supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro rioted in Brasilia in January, drawing fuel from online misinformation that claimed their candidate’s loss to current president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2022 was illegitimate, the issue shot back into the spotlight.
The recent spate of deadly school attacks has also fueled a national discussion about how to best counter violent extremism online.
The law has the support of Lula’s leftist government and a wide range of civil society organizations.
Those in the tech industry, as well as certain Evangelical Christian lawmakers and Bolsonaro supporters, are against it on the grounds that it would establish a “Truth Ministry” to regulate people’ speech à la George Orwell’s 1984.
Google and Telegram’s opposition to the bill via their respective platforms has gained headlines in recent weeks.
– Can you explain the breakdown of the costs? –
Unless there is a court order to remove the content or it is pornographic photos released without a subject’s consent, internet businesses in Brazil are currently immune from accountability for third-party content.
Under their terms of service, companies establish their own guidelines for content.
The law would alter the regulatory environment by dictating to businesses how they must handle content moderation.
It seeks to improve their openness and compel them to establish standards to prevent illegal content in seven areas, including attacks on democracy and the rule of law, children, the healthcare system, and women, as well as racism, terrorism, and incitement to self-harm.
The law, which is partially inspired by the recently enacted Digital Services Act in the European Union, would apply to all social networks, search engines, and instant messaging apps with more than 10 million monthly users, and would mandate that these businesses hire external auditors.
Expert on public policy at the University of Sao Paulo Pablo Ortellado told AFP that the law would not mandate the removal or labeling of all such content but would force corporations to show that they are making sufficient efforts to remove it from circulation.
Warnings, temporary suspensions, or fines of up to 10% of revenue could be imposed.
Why do some IT companies fight it? –
Over 40 million Brazilians use Telegram, and on Tuesday, the company warned them that Congress “is about to pass a law that will end free speech” and “give the government censorship powers.”
‘Companies would have to eliminate genuine opinions, resulting in excessive obstruction and a new sort of censorship,’ stated Marcelo Lacerda, Google Brasil’s public policy director.
Who will be responsible for monitoring?
Experts are uncertain as to how the law will be implemented in its current form.
After charges that the law would establish a “Truth Ministry,” plans to establish an independent regulatory body were scrapped, according to Ortellado.
A political, rather than a technical, oversight procedure, he warned, was left open.
He warned AFP that doing so was risky.