Brazil’s “fake news” censorship law goes to a vote next week

A major threat to free speech.

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Brazilian lawmakers are set to vote on a contentious bill aimed at regulating social media, sparking nationwide debates over freedom of speech and the battle against so-called “fake news.” The proposed legislation, known as the “fake news bill,” requires social media platforms and chat apps to take action against accounts and content deemed criminal, such as incitement to violence and terrorism, – but also “hate speech.”

Non-compliant platforms regarding court-ordered content removal may be subject to financial penalties or legal proceedings. Furthermore, the proposed legislation encompasses guidelines related to advertising and official social media accounts for government entities.

The bill demands the following:

  1. Necessity for a domestic legal representative with significant duties;
  2. Restriction on anonymous automated accounts;
  3. Implementation of methods to recognize account behavior beyond human capabilities;
  4. Disclosure of all sponsored marketing and promoted materials;
  5. Adherence to the 2018 Data Protection Act;
  6. Establishment of alert, access, and appeals systems for content moderation;
  7. Creation of distinct procedures for promoting election-related content;
  8. Issuing transparency reports biannually in Portuguese, applicable to search engines as well; and
  9. Compensation for content produced by media outlets;
  10. Implementation of restrictions on message dissemination, encompassing distribution lists;
  11. Requiring user approval for group and list memberships;
  12. Discontinuation of default auto-enrollment in groups and lists;
  13. Ban on sales of tools facilitating mass message distribution;
  14. Establishment of systems to detect and obstruct external tools for bulk messaging; and
  15. Upholding data accuracy and supplying user information upon judicial orders

The bill’s rapporteur, Deputy Orlando Silva, doesn’t think this is a threat to free speech, though. “Freedom of speech is made stronger with a process where the user can contest when he disagrees with the removal of content,” Silva pressed.

The bill has garnered support from several political figures, including President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Minister of Justice Flávio Dino – the latter of which said, he too doesn’t see it as a threat to free speech. “Freedom of speech is not at risk when it’s regulated. On the contrary, defending free speech is regulating it,” he said, inexplicably.

However, critics argue that the bill aims to silence political dissent and restrict freedom of speech. Tech companies have also expressed concerns, suggesting that improved self-regulation may be a more effective approach to promoting a safer digital environment.

Because of some of the pushback against the proposals, Deputy Orlando Silva has to submit a new version before the vote set to take place next week.

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