Dubbed as the “censorship bill” by critics, Brazil’s Bill 2630/2020 is a measure to regulate disinformation online. Introduced in 2020 to address the flood of disinformation online, the legislation stalled in the lower house after passing the Senate. It resurfaced after supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro ran riot in Brasilia in January, incited by social media disinformation claiming their candidate’s 2022 election loss to now-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was fraudulent.

The Debate

The bill’s proponents hailed it as a vital defense against “fake news” and online extremism. Lula’s left-wing government and various civil society groups support the bill, while tech companies, Evangelical Christian lawmakers, and Bolsonaro supporters oppose it. They allege that the bill would create an Orwellian “Truth Ministry” to censor citizens’ views. The measure has made headlines as the government and courts have hit back at Google and Telegram for using their platforms to oppose it.

The Bill’s Provisions

The bill aims to increase transparency and make companies adopt rules to combat illegal content in seven areas: attacks against democracy and the rule of law, children, the health system, women, racism, terrorism, and incitement to suicide or self-harm. It is based partly on the European Union’s recently adopted Digital Services Act and would apply to all social networks, search engines, and instant messaging apps with more than 10 million monthly users. It would require them to hire external auditors. Penalties would range from warnings to temporary suspensions or fines of up to 10 percent of revenue.

The Controversy

Telegram sent a message to its more than 40 million users in Brazil warning that Congress “is about to pass a law that will end free speech” and “give the government censorship powers.” Google’s public policy director for Brazil, Marcelo Lacerda, wrote that “companies would have to remove legitimate views, resulting in excessive blockage and a new kind of censorship.” The current version of the legislation leaves a question mark over how it will be enforced and experts warn that it could lead to political, rather than technical, oversight. Pablo Ortellado, a public policy expert at the University of Sao Paulo, warned that this is dangerous.

The bill continues to be a contentious issue in Brazil, with supporters and opponents deeply divided. While it aims to combat disinformation and illegal content, critics argue that it could lead to censorship and the stifling of free speech. As the government and courts continue to debate the measure, its final provisions and impact remain uncertain.

Technology

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