Google up in arms over Brazil's fake news bill

The web giant published a letter arguing the project could make digital platforms less secure and bring all manner of unintended consequences.

Google has published an open letter to complain about proposed legislation aimed at tackling the spread of false information in Brazil, arguing the bill could bring a raft of negative consequences.

Signed by Google Brazil president Fabio Coelho, the letter released on Friday (12) criticizes the project introduced in 2020, which aims to regulate platforms with more than 2 million users, who would be responsible for creating rules and mechanisms to identify content that could be considered false clearly.

"We recognize the importance of debating solutions to this problem, but we are concerned that the Congress is doing so without considering the negative and unintended consequences the bill could bring", Coelho argued.

The executive added that the project, which has yet to be voted by  Congress, could actually make it easier for people who want to spread disinformation. It also introduces hurdles for media outlets in terms of content reach, he said, while rendering Google's services less useful and secure for users and limiting the ability of smaller companies in terms of promoting their offerings online.

The rules Google would need to comply with, such as disclosing detailed information about how the company's systems work, including details on the basis of systems training and methods used to improve services, monitor violations and take enforcement action, would "significantly impair Google's ability to combat abuse and spam and protect our users from scams", Coelho said. He added compliance to the rules would "make search engines less secure for everyone and more susceptible to abuse and fraud."

Google Brazil's head argued that disclosure of the details set out in the proposal will not help tackle disinformation: rather, it will offer malicious actors a "guide" on how to bypass the company's systems' protections, harming the quality and security of search results. "With this, they could manipulate this information to obtain a better position in our search ranking, harming in the process those who produce reliable and relevant content," Coelho added.

Other internet giants such as Meta, Twitter and Mercado Livre have voiced concerns about Brazil's proposed legislation to tackle fake news: in a joint letter published in late February, the firms criticized the bill on the grounds that it could "restrict people's access to diverse and plural sources of information; discourage platforms from taking steps to maintain a healthy online environment; and negatively impact in millions of small and medium businesses looking to connect with their consumers through advertising and digital services".

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