Brazil's Proposed 'Fake News' Law Says Internet Users Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Demands Constant Logging From ISPs

from the riskiest-of-clicks dept

Brazil’s legislature is set to vote on its proposed “fake news” law. This law would criminalize speech the government doesn’t like, under the handy theory that anything it doesn’t like must be “fake.” There was some mobilization on this not-even-legal-yet theory back in 2018, ahead of an election, when the Federal Police announced it would be keeping an eye on the internet during the election process. There are plenty of ways to combat misinformation. Giving this job to people with guns is the worst solution.

The EFF has put together a summary of the worst aspects of the proposed law. And they are the worst. First and foremost, lawmakers have realized a law that targets users the government can’t identify is completely worthless. Brazilians will pretty much need a license to communicate with others — something achieved by turning platforms and app makers into bouncers at the internet nightclub.

[T]he bill (Article 7, paragraph 3) requires “large” social networks and private messaging apps (that offer service in Brazil to more than two million users) to identify every account’s user by requesting their national identity cards. It’s a retroactive and general requirement, meaning that identification must be requested for each and every existing user. Article 7 main provision is not limited to the identification of a user by a court order, also including when there is a complaint about an account’s activity, or when the company finds itself unsure of a user’s identity.

No doubt legislators will say comforting things about protecting anonymous speech as the bill is debated. But those platitudes will be emptier than usual. Users are permitted to use pseudonyms. But they’re also required to provide their legal identities to these platforms.

Brazilians can’t bypass this identification process by using only phone apps to communicate. SIM card registration has been in place since 2003 and the proposed law expands on that, requiring private messaging apps to delete accounts that are no longer linked to registered phone numbers.

Since the law is triggered when alleged fake news reaches (a very low) critical mass, social networks and messaging apps are required to log pretty much everything users do, just in case. Since it’s impossible to predict what will go viral, logging will be continuous.

These obligations are conditioned on virality thresholds and apply when an instance of a message has been forwarded to groups or lists by more than 5 users within 15 days, where a message’s content has reached 1,000 or more users. The service provider is also apparently expected to temporarily retain this data for all forwarded messages during the 15-day period in order to determine whether or not the virality threshold for “massively forwarded” will be met.  

This provision basically makes all users guilty until their inability to find an audience proves them innocent. The safest thing for tech companies to do is log continuously and retain forever, since there’s always a chance of sleeper hits reaching a broad audience weeks or months after the content was originally posted. The law mandates a four-month minimum for retention. It does not place a limit on maximum retention length.

The law also mandates that this massive collection of info be available remotely 24/7 for perusal by government regulators. This massively increases the chance of a harmful data breach by expanding the attack surface to every user and every government employee granted access privileges. And if there’s an opportunity for abuse by government employees — and there is — it will be abused.

This logging and demands for identification from messaging/social media users obviously makes any assurances about respecting users’ privacy blatantly false. The proposed law pretty much renders the country’s data privacy law — passed in 2018 — irrelevant. The law can’t protect internet users from careless logging and extended retention of user info — not when the government’s demanding service providers and social media platforms do exactly this to aid in the regulation of third-party content.

Then there’s this problem: even if the law fails to pass, the Federal Police have made it clear they’re going to punish people for spreading “fake news.”

A top police official just yesterday warned that, absent a new law, they will invoke the authorities of one of the dictatorship era’s most repressive laws: the so-called Law of National Security, which contain deliberately vague passages making it a felony to “spread rumors that caused panic.”

The government will be in the censorship business with or without the new law. Since it obviously desires to be more fully involved in the business of censoring, the law will likely pass, since it will give the police (and others) a whole lot of data and PII to work with. The current leader of the country bearing the First Amendment brand declares news he doesn’t like to be “fake.” We shouldn’t expect anything better from other countries which have engaged in open censorship of government criticism in the past, no matter what niceties are said about protecting the public from misinformation.

Filed Under: , , , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Brazil's Proposed 'Fake News' Law Says Internet Users Are Guilty Until Proven Innocent, Demands Constant Logging From ISPs”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
5 Comments

Leave a Reply to Anonymous Coward Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...
Loading...
Older Stuff
09:32 Why Moderating Content Actually Does More To Support The Principles Of Free Speech (76)
09:30 Trumpists Admit That Their Own Social Media Platforms Aren't Much Fun When They Can't Use Them To Own The Libs (79)
15:36 On Elon Musk And Free Speech (164)
12:12 The 'Culture Of Free Speech' Includes Criticism Of Others' Speech; Get Over It (284)
13:30 Cops Who Sued Journalist For Reporting On Their Poor Handling Of A Rape Case Lose Their Defamation Lawsuit (40)
10:48 Jehovah's Witnesses Abusing Copyright Subpoena Process To Unmask Critics (16)
15:35 Devin Nunes Loses Appeal Of SLAPP Suit Against Liz Mair (16)
13:33 First Amendment Group Tells Appeals Court University Officials Shouldn't Have Access To Qualified Immunity (15)
09:32 Appeals Court Smacks Down Unconstitutional Injunction Obtained By A Lawyer To Silence Someone Who Left A Negative Review (13)
10:45 Senator Klobuchar's Next Unconstitutional Speech Control Bill: The NUDGE Act (37)
09:30 EARN ITs Big Knowledge 1st Amendment Problem (40)
13:31 Court (For Now) Says NY Times Can Publish Project Veritas Documents (43)
10:49 Terrible Vermont Harassment Law Being Challenged After Cops Use It To Punish A Black Lives Matter Supporter Over Her Facebook Posts (14)
10:43 UK Government Refreshes Its Terrible 'Online Safety Bill,' Adds Even More Content For Platforms To Police (43)
09:37 Court Grants Qualified Immunity To Officer Who Told Couple To Take Down Facebook Post About Off-Duty Cop Who Shot Their Dog (18)
10:50 Tenth Circuit Tells College Administrator That Ordering A Student To Stop Talking About An Instructor Clearly Violates The First Amendment (27)
06:07 Small Alabama Town's Overzealous Traffic Cops Also Monitored Internet Traffic To Threaten Critics Of The Corrupt PD (43)
10:53 Explainer: The Whole Spotify / Joe Rogan Thing Has Absolutely Nothing To Do With Section 230 (56)
10:56 Governor Inslee Wants To Jail Politicians Who Lie? What Could Possibly Go Wrong? (39)
10:41 Georgia Sees Florida & Texas Social Media Laws Go Down In 1st Amendment Flames And Decides... 'Hey, We Should Do That Too' (65)
13:40 Harrison Greenbaum Latest Trick: Having Paul Levy Respond To Criss Angel's Thuggish Legal Threat (10)
12:12 Small Nebraska Town Pays $16,000 To Resident It Attempted To Sue Into Silence (19)
11:18 Pennsylvania Court Reverses Student's Expulsion Over A Snapchat Post, Reminds School Students Still Have Rights (27)
09:35 Sculptor Of Pillar Of Shame Announces It's Now Public Domain So That Anyone Can Make A Copy, As Chinese Authorities Seek To Destroy It (14)
09:23 Klobuchar's Silly Letter To Facebook Raises 1st Amendment Issues And Only Gives Ammo To Misinfo Peddlers That Facebook Is A State Actor (27)
10:40 Confused Judge Grants Project Veritas' Prior Restraint Against The NY Times (67)
09:31 Robert Reich Loses The Plot: Gets Basically Everything Wrong About Section 230, Fairness Doctrine & The 1st Amendment (95)
11:58 No, The Arguments Against Florida's & Texas' Content Moderation Bills Would Not Block All Internet Regulations (27)
09:33 Canada Strikes Again: Allows Lawsuit Against Twitter To Proceed Over Speech Of Twitter Users (43)
09:20 Rep. Thomas Massie Seems To Have Skipped Over The 1st Amendment In His Rush To 'Defend' The 2nd (95)
More arrow