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Brazil's top court orders probe into Google, Telegram

May 13, 2023

Brazil's Supreme Court ordered the investigation into Google and Telegram executives after the firms campaigned against a bill that would curtail online disinformation.

Brasilien Brasilia | Bolsonaro Anhänger stürmen Kongress
The bill gained more importance this year, after ex-president Bolsonaro's supporters stormed BrasiliaImage: Adriano Machado/REUTERS

The Supreme Court of Brazil ordered a probe into Google and Telegram, which are accused of leading an "abusive campaign" that opposes a proposed internet regulation bill.

The court's decision came after the tech firms campaigned against what critics claim is a "censorship bill."

Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the federal police to launch an investigation into the two companies and their executives.

Justice Moraes has given 60 days for the probe to take place and has asked the police to take statements from everyone responsible for the campaign at both companies.

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Why is the bill controversial?

The bill was first introduced in 2020 to curb online disinformation and is currently subject to a voting round in the lower house of Congress.

The bill gained more importance this year, after ex-president Jair Bolsonaro's supporters stormed Brasilia in January, allegedly after being provoked by fake news about fraudulent elections.

While supporters of the bill have hailed it as a much-needed measure against online extremism, Bolsonaro's supporters allege that it would create an Orwellian "Truth Ministry" to censor citizens' opinions.

The bill would hold the tech companies responsible for identifying and reporting illegal content. It also aims to penalize any failure by the tech firms to do so.

How did Google, Telegram irk the court?

The court's decision to launch a probe of Google and Telegram was based on a request by Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira who said, tech companies have used "all sorts of tricks in a sordid campaign of disinformation, manipulation and intimidation, taking advantage of their hegemonic position in the market."

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On its site, Google warned that the bill "seriously threatens free speech," while Telegram sent out messages to more than 40 million users in Brazil that called the bill an "attack on democracy."

Both the tech platforms received backlash from the Supreme Court, which also ordered them to remove the posts.

mf/rc (AFP, Reuters)