On Tuesday, the government and judiciary of Brazil expressed their objections to the campaign by big tech companies against a proposed internet regulation bill, ‘fake news law,’ which aims to combat the spread of fake news. They accused the companies of interfering unduly in the debate in Congress.
The bill in question, also known as the Fake News Law or Bill 2630, would require internet companies, search engines, and social messaging services to take responsibility for identifying and reporting illegal content instead of relying solely on the courts. Companies that fail to comply could face substantial fines.
Several tech companies, including Google LLC, have been actively campaigning against the Fake News Law. In Brazil, Google had even added a link on its search engine that directed users to blogs opposing the bill and encouraged them to lobby their representatives.
However, the Brazilian Justice Minister, Flavio Dino, issued an order on Tuesday for Google to remove the link. He gave the company two hours to comply, warning it would face fines of one million reais ($198,000) per hour if it did not.
Google defends the right to express concerns over Brazil’s Fake News Law
During a news conference, the minister criticized Google’s actions, saying that the link constituted disguised and misleading advertising for the company’s opposition to the law. He emphasized that Google is not a media or advertising company and should not be using its platform in this manner.
After receiving the order from the Brazilian Justice Minister, Google promptly removed the link from its search engine. However, the company defended its right to express its concerns about the bill through “marketing campaigns” on its platforms. Google also denied altering search results to promote content that opposes the proposed legislation.
According to Google, the Fake News Law could negatively affect freedom of expression and privacy. The company is committed to engaging in open and constructive discussions with policymakers about the bill and its potential impacts. Nonetheless, Google’s actions have sparked controversy in Brazil, with some accusing the company of attempting to influence the legislative process.
It said in a statement, “We support discussions on measures to combat the phenomenon of misinformation. All Brazilians have the right to be part of this conversation, and as such, we are committed to communicating our concerns about Bill 2630 publicly and transparently.”
The Fake News Law, which seeks to penalize companies that fail to report fake news, was scheduled for a vote on Tuesday in the lower house of Congress. However, the bill’s future is uncertain due to resistance from conservative and Evangelical lawmakers who have aligned themselves with big tech firms against the government and its allies.
Critics of the proposed legislation argue that it requires broader debate, as it was drawn up hastily. They claim that the bill could lead to censorship and would ultimately reward those who spread disinformation, as companies would be required to pay content providers and copyrights for material posted on their sites.
Brazil Faces Criticism and Controversy
The proposed law has sparked heated debate in Brazil, with supporters arguing that it is necessary to combat the spread of fake news and protect democracy. However, opponents are concerned that the legislation could be used to stifle free speech and suppress dissenting voices.
On Tuesday, Brazil’s Supreme Court requested that the chief executives of Google, Meta, and Spotify testify within five days to explain their conduct regarding the Fake News Law. In addition, Brazil’s antitrust regulator Cade announced that it would investigate Google and Meta’s campaigns against the bill.
If passed, the proposed legislation could become one of the world’s most robust regulations on social media, similar to the European Union’s Digital Services Act enacted in 2020. Proponents of the bill, such as Representative Orlando Silva of the Communist Party of Brazil, argue that it is necessary to curb the spread of fake news that has polluted Brazilian politics and impacted elections.
Silva cited the January 8th storming of government buildings and the prevalence of violence in schools as examples of the harmful effects of fake news. The bill was fast-tracked in the lower house of Congress following a series of fatal attacks in schools, which some allege were encouraged by social media.
However, critics of the bill argue that it requires more extensive debate and could lead to censorship. Furthermore, new articles were added to the account without being discussed in Congressional committees before the vote. Silva noted that the original draft included the creation of a state agency to monitor illegal content but was dropped due to opposition in Congress.