Brazilian senators unite against decision to limit content removal from social networks

The measure that edited the country's existing Internet legislation is seen as an "attack on democracy".
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

Following Jair Bolsonaro's decision to edit regulation to limit moderation powers of social networking platforms earlier this week, senators are calling for the immediate suspension of the measure.

Under the changes introduced via a provisional measure, announced on Monday (6), social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube will need to follow a series of procedures and justify their decisions before deleting content or users that are understood to be violating their terms of use.

Bolsonaro's decision to edit the legislation in place to impose tougher rules on platforms was presented as a means to ensure freedom of expression online. On the other hand, it is seen as a move to support presidential allies, which had content removed by the platforms. The measure caused an uproar within the legal community since such changes in legislation could not occur through a decree. According to experts, the measures also facilitate the propagation of fake news.

The decision alters the country's current legislation around the use of the web -- the Marco Civil da Internet, known as the Internet Constitution - which has been in place since 2014. Following the decision, senator Alessandro Vieira filed a restraining order at the Supreme Federal Court to request the immediate suspension of the validity of the changes. The provisional measure is valid for two months from the date it was published and must be voted within 45 days.

Senator Zenaide Maia noted the president's decision is "another attack on democracy" and stressed the changes make it harder for companies to remove false or harmful content online. "[The measure] only benefits hate networks and fake news producers", she added.

In the same vein, Senator Randolfe Rodrigues, who is collecting signatures from his pointed out freedom of expression, is already covered in the Marco Civil da Internet, which is one of the world's most advanced legislation on the topic".

Senator Angelo Coronel, who also presides a parliamentary commission aimed at investigating the alleged propagation of fake news by government agents and is the rapporteur of a Bill that institutes the Brazilian Law on Freedom, Responsibility and Transparency on the Internet, sent a letter to the presidency of the Senate, calling for the provisional measure to be returned to the Executive.

"This is a widely controversial topic, requiring, therefore, a broad debate, a role to be performed by the National Congress; it could never be the object of a provisional measure", said senator Coronel.

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