Google and Telegram CEOs under investigation in Brazil

Google and Telegram CEOs under investigation in Brazil

Monday, May 15th 2023 – 10:35 UTC

The request for the investigation was made by the attorney general’s office following a complaint by Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira

Brazil’s Federal Supreme Court (STF) Justice Alexandre De Moraes Friday launched an investigation against the heads of Google and Telegram in the country for the alleged disinformation campaign and attacks launched against the so-called fake news bill.

De Moraes acquiesced to a request from the prosecution to investigate those responsible for the “abusive campaign” against the bill and gave the Federal Police a 60-day deadline to start the investigation.

On May 10, De Moraes ordered Telegram to remove a message sent to its users warning about the dangers of the bill, and days earlier Google was forced by the Government to mark as advertising a material that criticized the legislative proposal.

The Brazilian government wants to pass a law limiting the dissemination of fake news, and hate speech. and disinformation on social networks, among other issues, but the big tech companies are resisting it and using their platforms to argue against the law through hoaxes and exaggerations that may constitute an abuse of a dominant position in addition to crimes against democratic institutions, against the consumer order and against the economy and consumer relations.

The fake news bill was to be voted on a few days ago in the Lower House, but it was finally temporarily withdrawn after the Government realized that it still did not have enough votes to go ahead.

In his decision, De Moraes points out that the investigation will be conducted “in front of the directors and other responsible persons” of the companies that “have participated in the abusive campaign” against the congressional text.

The request for the investigation was made by the attorney general’s office following a complaint by Lower House Speaker Arthur Lira.

De Moraes determined that the Federal Police will act for an initial period of 60 days so that the messages published by the companies against the bill will be preserved and submitted to forensic examination.

The Federal Police is authorized to take statements from the executives of both companies, who have publicly positioned themselves against the bill supported by part of the opposition and the parliamentary base of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s government.

On May 1, Google placed a link against the bill in the Brazilian edition of its home page, and its entire platform was directed to news against the initiative.

Telegram, for its part, sent to all its users a message stating that the law “ends freedom of expression” in Brazil, but withdrew it 24 hours later after De Moraes threatened to suspend its operation in Brazilian territory.

Deputy Lira argued in his request that the platforms encourage users to pressure lawmakers and promote a “disinformation campaign”.

Deputy Attorney General Lindora Araújo included in her request to investigate the companies under the consumer defense code and possible abuse of economic power due to their dominant position in the market. “The factual scenario points to the existence of minimum information elements of criminal conduct,” she wrote.

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