The MP (provisional measure) issued by President Jair Bolsonaro to regulate social media content, on the eve of the September 7 acts, limits not only the fight against false news, but also against harassment, bullying and xenophobia on Facebook, on YouTube, Twitter and TikTok.
The text, which has been worked on for a few months at the Secretariat of Culture, headed by Mario Frias, establishes that platforms are prevented from moderating content (such as excluding or reducing its scope) that “implies political, ideological, scientific, artistic or religious”. Publications are now protected by copyright — an unprecedented relationship in the field of internet regulation.
Dubbed the government’s “freedom of expression MP”, the measure directly confronts the role of social networks, which in the context of the pandemic, intensified the operation against misleading content, such as lies related to Covid and vaccines.
The MP gives 30 days for companies to adjust. The text still needs to go through Congress.
The editorial changes articles from the Marco Civil da Internet and determines that social networks with more than 10 million subscribers (therefore, only the technology giants) do not remove content without a court order, with the exception of a list of subjects that can be eliminated by just cause.
Nudity, incitement to crimes against life, pedophilia, terrorism, trafficking, incitement to violence based on racial, color, sex, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, incitement to illicit drugs and violence against animals, are included in the list of just cause , between others.
According to the rules in force today, companies have autonomy to moderate what circulates on their platforms. They have curbed or lessened the reach of hate speech, misinformation about the pandemic and proven false content according to checking agencies.
Specialists draw attention to topics that were left out of the list, and therefore can no longer be excluded without the approval of justice: bullying, harassment, incitement to use weapons, xenophobia and false news.
These points were already being attacked by companies after years of pressure from civil society.
“It is a mixture of the text by senator Angelo Coronel (PSD-BA), in the fake news bill, with hints of pocketnarism. It brings a concept of content moderation that did not exist in Marco Civil”, says André Giacchetta, partner of Pinheiro Neto Lawyers.
The MP leaves out disinformation, which prohibits any type of action by platforms in combating false news. “It is excessive State interference in the private relationship,” he adds.
The government justified the measure saying that social networks have become a “relevant instrument for the expression of ideas and opinions by millions of Brazilians” and that, therefore, it is important to discipline the right to freedom of expression.
He said the “urgency of the measure stems from the fact that the arbitrary and unreasonable removal of accounts, profiles and content by social media providers” violates freedom of expression.
Em sua página no Twitter, Mario Frias publicou uma foto ao lado de Bolsonaro no momento da assinatura da MP. “Our country will not be held hostage to the censorship of an oligopoly,” he said, referring to the rules of big companies.
Bolsonaro and his supporters say their freedom of expression is hampered by social media. Content such as promoting the use of chloroquine, a medicine that is ineffective against the disease, has been eliminated in recent months. Publicações de parlamentares e de Eduardo Bolsonaro (PSL-SP), filho do presidente, já foram rotuladas como enganosas no Twitter.
In addition, the STF (Supreme Federal Court) and the TSE (Superior Electoral Court) have lawsuits against pocket pages investigated for disseminating fake news. Websites and channels supporting the government endorse the offensive against institutions and social networks, alleging that the right is censored — an example would be the channel Terça Livre, which is in a legal dispute with YouTube.
Several civil society organizations demonstrated this Monday night (6) against the text, also criticizing the lack of debate on the topic.
“The list left out very basic subjects, such as spam, harassment and bullying. It will not be possible, for example, to remove the profile of a man who is only there to harass a woman. shielding, from spam. It’s to break the internet,” says Francisco Brito Cruz, director of the Internet Lab.
For Safernet, which receives reports of crimes online, the inclusion of nudity in the list of just cause is not enough to fight child pornography, for example, and adds that this new dynamic could even hinder criminal investigations.
“Algorithms are able to capture schemas, keywords used by groups that characterize crimes against children and adolescents. It is not necessary to publish a child’s nude photo for that. People use a series of codes. All this, strictly speaking, will be compromised”, says Thiago Tavares, president of Safernet.
Posts called click-hunting, which use sensational titles and lure people to sites with fake content that pass for news, would also be allowed, according to lawyers.
“The text was surgical in determining the size of the affected platforms. Gab, Parler and BitChute, repositories of this type of content, with links that go directly to WhatsApp, were freed from the measure of Bolsonaro”, adds Tavares.
Technology companies criticized the MP, noting that it violates constitutional guarantees and that the Marco Civil was a collaborative and open process.
The text signed by Bolsonaro also provides for sanctions that would be applied by an administrative authority that is not explicit.