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Brazil’s Attorney General Seeks New Powers to Remove “Disinformation” Online

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Brazil’s Attorney General Jorge Messias is reported to be looking for ways to gain more powers in his ongoing push to censor “disinformation.”

He has been one of the key figures behind efforts in Brazil to shut down social media sites and even accused journalist Michael Shellenberger of committing a “probable” crime – as the author of the Twitter Files Brazil.

Now, the country is in for yet another round of voting, this time at the local level – mayors and councilors will be elected in 5,570 municipalities.

This again prompted some parties and officials to start issuing dramatic warnings about “disinformation” – and the threat of AI was inevitably thrown into the mix.

The language is predictable enough – whatever those in power decide to consider as “disinformation” is presented as a massive threat to elections and democracy itself.

But in Brazil, after the initial push before and after the January 8, 2023 events (the country’s almost carbon copy of Jan. 6 in the US) there’s been something of a lull when it comes to legislating against “disinformation.”

A draft law known as “Fake News Bill” is currently stuck in parliament, but in the meanwhile, Messias is reported as pushing to be given the same right as candidates for office and electoral prosecutors – namely, to sue over “fake news ads” run by opponents. This would happen if “disinformation about public policies” was detected.

The AG’s office has the National Prosecutorial Office in Defense of Democracy (PNDD) set up under the current Brazilian administration – which critics as far away as the US have dubbed an instrument of cracking down on free speech, because of its involvement in censorship under the guise of combating disinformation.

In Brazil, conservatives are referring to PNDD as “the Ministry of Truth” and under pressure, its scope of action has already had to be redefined. Still, PNDD has managed to go after media outlets, Covid vaccine critics, etc., using extrajudicial censorship notices.

Now, with Messias seeking even greater powers, some observers are worried about the already broad wording of PNDD’s scope, and what “swift” removal of content would mean in terms of free speech restrictions.

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