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Google finds Brazil a tough nut to crack

by on03 May 2023

Accused of "deceitful and abusive propaganda" 

The Brazilian government accused Google of "deceitful and abusive propaganda" ironically over a debate of a law to tackle disinformation online.

The row came as lawmakers in Brazil's lower house prepared to vote on a "fake news bill" which aims to make tech companies regulate disinformation, hate speech and violent content on their platforms.

Brazil's National Consumer Protection Bureau ordered Google, which has criticised the bill, to label as "advertising" messages on its site warning the legislation could "make your internet worse" and "increase confusion about what is true or false in Brazil."

The bureau gave the company two hours to balance that with "counter-propaganda" or face a fine of one million reais ($200,000) an hour.

Justice Minister Flavio Dino accused Google of "manipulating" search results to display content opposed to the bill more prominently—a charge the company denied.

"No one should be manipulating Brazilians' freedom of expression," Dino told a news conference, accusing Google of abusing its platform to promote its own position.

Google's Brazilian home page had prominently displayed a message against the bill, linking to a blog post by the company's public policy director, Marcelo Lacerda.

Lacerda warned of "undesirable consequences" of the bill, including inadvertently protecting those who spread disinformation, by preventing companies from implementing their own terms of use.

The link to the blog was removed from Google's Brazilian home page Tuesday. A Google spokeswoman told AFP it had been scheduled to expire anyway, saying the decision was not related to the government's measures.

The bill, which has already passed the Senate, was introduced three years ago—one in a series of efforts worldwide to grapple with the flood of misinformation online.

The law was seen as becoming more important after supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro invaded the halls of power in Brasilia on 8 January egged on by social media disinformation claiming their candidate's 2022 election loss to leftist successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was fraudulent.


Last modified on 03 May 2023
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