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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday issued a decree that changes the rules for moderating content on social media, a move that critics say could hamper the fight against disinformation.
The decree takes effect immediately but must be ratified by Congress to become law. It aims to fight against “the arbitrary and unfair deletion of accounts, profiles and content by suppliers,” said the Federal Communications Secretariat.
Far-right leader Bolsonaro, who himself has had content removed from his social media accounts for spreading disinformation about Covid-19, says the suspension or removal of accounts and content to which various platforms l ‘have submitted as well as to some of its supporters is “censorship”. . “
The new provision establishes a series of assumptions under which there would be “good cause” to remove content or suspend users – such as committing crimes or inciting violence – and imposes new rules on platforms to do so.
“This interim measure significantly hinders our ability to limit abuse on our platforms,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP. “We agree with lawyers and specialists who consider the measure to be a violation of constitutional rights.”
Alessandro Molon, an opposition politician and rapporteur for Brazil’s Internet Bill of Rights (MCI), said he was preparing legal action to overturn the presidential decree.
“Its goal is not to protect freedom of expression, MCI already does,” Molon said. “What (Bolsonaro) wants is to prevent the disinformation and hate speech he and his supporters spread from continuing to be removed from platforms.”
Bolsonaro announced the decree on the eve of Brazil’s Independence Day, when his supporters are expected to take to the streets of the country’s major cities.
Tensions are high, as anti-Bolsonaro protests are planned in the same towns and clashes between the groups could occur.
As polls put Bolsonaro on track to lose hard to ex-leftist Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in next year’s presidential elections, the former army captain hopes to use the rally to energize its supporters.
© 2021 AFP