Brazilian President Bans Social Media Companies From Removing Disinformation & Abuse

from the well-that-will-work-out-just-great dept

Ah, great. Just after Australia made it clear that media organizations are liable for comments on social media (demonstrating one aspect of a world without intermediary liability protections), Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has announced new social media rules that effectively force social media sites to keep all content online (demonstrating the flipside to a world without intermediary liability protections). The two most important things that Section 230 does — limiting liability for 3rd party intermediaries and freeing websites of liability for moderation choices — each going away completely in two separate countries in the same week.

To be clear, the rule in Brazil can only stay on the books for 120 days — since it’s a “provisional measure” from the President — and if they’re not enacted into law by the Brazilian Congress by then, they’ll expire (and there’s at least some suggestion that the Brazilian Congress has no interest). But, still, these rules are dangerous.

Under the new policy, tech companies can remove posts only if they involve certain topics outlined in the measure, such as nudity, drugs and violence, or if they encourage crime or violate copyrights; to take down others, they must get a court order. That suggests that, in Brazil, tech companies could easily remove a nude photo, but not lies about the coronavirus. The pandemic has been a major topic of disinformation under Mr. Bolsonaro, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all having removed videos from him that pushed unproven drugs as coronavirus cures.

Imagine needing to get a court order to remove content? That’s ridiculous. Bolsonaro’s government put out a twitter thread (in English) claiming that this is the country “taking the global lead in defending free speech” when the reality is exactly the opposite. Compelled speech, which includes the compelled hosting of speech, is the exact opposite of “defending free speech.” Here’s what the government is saying about this dangerous proposal:

Brazilian government is taking the global lead in defending free speech on social networks and protecting the right of citizens to freedom of thought and expression.

As noted, compelled speech is not defending free speech. And freedom of expression does not mean you get to force someone else to let you speak on their property.

The Provisional Measure issued today by the Brazilian government forbids the removal of content that may result in any kind of “censorship of political, ideological, scientific, artistic or religious order”.

Hilariously, though, it does allow for the removal of copyright infringing material, which already undermines the idea that it does not allow for censorship of “artistic” works.

It is also guaranteed that the social network will have to justify the removal of content under the terms of Brazilian laws. Without a just cause, the social network will have to restore the removed content.

This may be the most pernicious part here, because (as we’ve discussed before), the most bad faith, abusive trolls are the ones who are most likely to demand justification — and then to act shocked and pretend to be offended at claims that they were acting as bad faith, abusive trolls. This provision just allows trolls to make an even bigger nuisance of themselves. Which seems to be exactly what Bolsonaro wants, knowing he has more bad faith, abusive trolls on his side.

This measure forbids selective deplatforming by requiring that social media provide a just cause for the suspension of services and restore access should the suspension be considered unlawful. This measure is based on precedent in Brazilian law and freedom of expression.

Compelled speech is never freedom of expression. As for “precedent,” Brazil once led the way in passing smart internet rules. This makes a mockery of them.

Attention: the law does not prevent the social network from removing content that violates Brazilian law, such as child pornography. The Brazilian government stands for both freedom and democracy!

That’s a pretty damn Orwellian statement right there.

This measure has been emitted as a result of ongoing concern with actions taken by social media groups that have been perceived as harmful to healthy debate and freedom of expression in Brazil, and hope it will serve to help restore online political dialogue in the country.

Basically, we’re doing this because our President is not doing well in the polls leading up to a national election, and has been taking a page from Trump’s playbook and talking about how he can only lose by election fraud — and we need to make sure that social media companies don’t actually stop our bullshit propaganda from spreading widely.

The real question now is how will the social media companies respond. According to the NY Times:

Facebook said that the ?measure significantly hinders our ability to limit abuse on our platforms? and that the company agrees ?with legal experts and specialists who view the measure as a violation of constitutional rights.?

Twitter said the policy transforms existing internet law in Brazil, ?as well as undermines the values and consensus it was built upon.?

YouTube said it was still analyzing the law before making any changes. ?We?ll continue to make clear the importance of our policies, and the risks for our users and creators if we can?t enforce them,? the company said.

There’s also this:

In July, YouTube removed 15 of Mr. Bolsonaro’s videos for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. And late last month, YouTube said that, under orders from a Brazilian court, it had stopped payments to 14 pro-Bolsonaro channels that had spread false information about next year’s presidential elections.

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

Of course, it seems notable that it was just a few years ago that Brazil arrested a Facebook exec because the company refused to hand over information on WhatsApp users, and has, at times, blocked the entirety of WhatsApp in the country. So, it would be interesting to see what will happen if the companies refuse to follow these ridiculous rules.

But, between this and what happened in Australia, we’ll now get to see two examples of the dangerous situation that happens when you don’t have strong intermediary liability protections, including for the ability to moderate websites how best you see fit.

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Companies: facebook, twitter, youtube

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Comments on “Brazilian President Bans Social Media Companies From Removing Disinformation & Abuse”

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19 Comments
sumgai (profile) says:

What has the internet done for us?

In a nutshell? It has exposed just how badly we have failed, as a civilization, to recognize, and remedy, a significant portion of the world’s population that is willfully unenlightenable. And yes, I’m being nice and polite in my descriptions there, but I just can’t muster the strength for calling a spade a spade this morning.

The only solution I can think of to remove any and all humans from any modicum of control over the ‘net, but that means putting an AI in charge…. even though I can’t seem to rid myself of visions of Skynet.

We’re in deep kimchee here folks, damnably deep.

ECA (profile) says:

so many sides to this

Corps in the country can Bomb(no better word) sites and overwhelmed them for any opinion.
Political groups can debate and say every thing they think, even if it has no reasoning.
religion, racism, personal feeling of an ex wife/husband. How many sides can now Broadcast an opinion and not have it cut off for non-sense.
Any hacker or spammer can take advantage of Stupidity.
How to make a bomb in 3 easy lessons(there are 4 steps not 3).
And now every online corp can make promises and sales and NOT give promises or sales, deny they ever posted it, they didnt do it attitude.

The ultimate in released democracy.
This is going to be, every carnival/circus/party from hell, you ever saw.
The fun part is how FB/others are going to deal with in 120 days. Anyone want to clean out a sewer line?

Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

Re: Now in Texas

Texas literally just passed a law basically doing the same thing

Texas is behind the curve. In Florida, we not only had SB 2021-7072 enacted, but the law was already found unconstitutional. So Texas is going to have to do something big if it wants to catch up.

And Brazil? They are obviously in the minor leagues.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Now in Texas

Very minor.

China already has full information control enough to straight up lie to anyone, including and up to experts they "cordially" invited to investigate how COVID started.

Singapore already sues anyone who dares to criticize the government.

Australia and England are in the hands of Eupert Murdich.

Brazil and Texas gotta step up their game.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'How dare you impose consequences for my actions!'

Or it tl;dr format: Thin-skinned liar passes order forbidding social media from kicking off liars, lies again and claims forced speech and lack of consequences for lying vital to ‘protect’ free speech.

Yeah, with them showing his lies the door and giving his supporters the same treatment and for the same reason it’s not hard to see why he’d be screaming about how it’s unfair that actions have consequences, because if that’s allowed to stand what could he possibly do, tell the truth?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

restless94110 (profile) says:

Hear ye

This is the greatest news I’ve heard all evening! An order that totalitarian censors of social media can’t censor! Who could have any problem with that? No one but totalitarians. since there is no such thing as dis or mis information–only a different opinion than yours–this is perfect.

They should leave in the nudity tho.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hear ye

A totalitarian order, forcing private companies to host speech that those companies believe is dangerous–including dangerous to democracy? You’re celebrating that nonsense? You’re a terrible fascist asshole.

Where do you live? I want to go spray paint your house with my message about what a fascist you are, and you need to let me do it, or according to your own ridiculous logic, you’re a totalitarian. Who could have any problem with me painting over your house explaining to anyone who passes by how you’re a dumb fuck?

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