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Brazil’s Supreme Court Is Hiring Contractors To Monitor Social Media and Track Dissenters

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Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) has turned to contractors to keep an eye on social media and smoke out main critics – including by identifying them, and their location.

Other judicial institutions that are said to have contracts of a similar nature are the Superior Court of Justice, the Superior Labor Court, the Superior Electoral Court, and the National Council of Justice.

Reports out of Brazil about the contracting of outside entities to perform online surveillance is based on a public call for bids (the closing date was June 14), where STF looked to hire a company that will monitor, in real-time, what’s referred to as “the digital presence of the Federal Supreme Court” on social media.

The contractor will also have to provide alerts via instant messages, daily, weekly, and monthly – both quantitative and qualitative – analytical reports, as well as “occasional bulletins and preparation of a monthly action plan strategy for acting on social networks.”

This is yet another move by the country’s judiciary branch (the Superior Electoral Court’s activities offer more examples) that tests the boundaries of its powers. And, it’s a move that is explained as the need to protect democracy from “disinformation.”

But it didn’t stop there, as the Supreme Court’s lengthy investigations would at times cover not only “fake” but also real news – the kind that, in one example, exposed a former justice as having links with a company accused of corruption.

Contractors will now not only carry out “continuous monitoring” of social platforms (in search for “main detractors”), but also propose to the Court how it may “improve communication” with citizens.

In the past, Supreme Court justices and even a prosecutor general launched legal battles against people because of their online speech, but when these officials were allied with former President Balsonaro – other high judicial figures, including Alexandre de Moraes (an STF justice) – had no problem calling that approach unconstitutional.

Speaking about the conduct of the previous authorities, Justice Carmen Lucia – who recently took over as president of the Superior Electoral Court from Moraes (while singing the latter’s praises) – was quoted as saying:

“The use of the state apparatus to obtain specific information about political stances contrary to the government constitutes an affront to the fundamental right to free expression of thought.”

Nothing hypocritical to see here. /s

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