In order to curb the social harm of fake news, the Brazilian Congress was originally scheduled to vote on Bill 2630, the “Fake News Law,” this week. As a heavyweight industry control law, one of the main points of the bill is to directly hold accountable social media platforms that spread harmful information, posing a threat to many Internet giants.
On the eve of the vote, some Internet companies in the United States quietly launched a propaganda campaign, using the banner of “freedom of speech” to attack the Brazilian government, but they were soon severely warned and criticised for engaging in “fraudulent and defamatory propaganda.” On the other hand, the advancement of the bill has obviously encountered resistance, and the House of Representatives vote originally scheduled for the 2nd failed to proceed as scheduled.
What is the “fake news law”?
According to a Reuters report on the 3rd, Brazil’s Bill 2630 began to enter the legislative process as early as June 2020. The core content is to build a legal mechanism to curb the spread of false information and hold accountable digital platforms that spread false information. The bill stipulates that all Internet companies, search engines and social media platforms must actively mark, report and remove illegal content, and offenders will be fined heavily. Not only that, companies can no longer “ship” Internet content for free, but must pay content providers. In addition, the bill also proposes mandatory identity authentication for users on each platform, and at the same time prohibits the creation of “vest accounts” that do not match their identities.
Once the bill was proposed, a group of Internet giants in the United States were on the verge of a formidable enemy. Google, Facebook and other companies have recently issued warnings that the bill will endanger the circulation of Internet content. On the 2nd, Google announced in a statement that Act 2630 has recently undergone a number of major adjustments, but the industry and the public know little about the content of the new version. The company believes that the new bill will not only affect users of the company’s search engine, but even “all participants in the digital ecosystem.”
Google was criticized for its “little tricks”
According to Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo, Google implanted a link on its search engine page on the 1st, and Brazilian Internet users can see a line below the Google search box on the same day: “The ‘Fake News Law’ will make your Internet get worse.” Clicking the link takes you to a Google-created blog forum filled with criticism of the new law. As early as the 28th of last month, Google’s video website YouTube platform also began to cause anxiety to many video creators and broadcasters: the platform stated in an email that if the latest bill is passed, YouTube’s content creation costs will rise, and the ability of the broadcaster to “accept fans” will decrease. YouTube also urged broadcasters to “have a good talk with those members of Congress” online.
These “little moves” by Google were criticised by Brazilian officials. On the 2nd, Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino issued a warning, requiring Google to withdraw the implanted link within 2 hours of receiving the notification; otherwise, it will be fined 1 million reais (about 137 yuan) for every overdue hour. Dino criticised Google for “pacing” at the press conference that day. He sarcastically said, “What is this (referring to the link implanted by Google)? Is it to incite public opinion? Google is not a media or advertising company.” The warning of the Minister of Justice It had an immediate effect, and Google withdrew the link within minutes of receiving the notice.
According to a survey conducted by the Internet Laboratory of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Google also seems to have adjusted the ranking of search results, putting criticism and opposition to the bill front and centre. For example, the “St. Paul Folha” said that when users search for “Bill No. 2630” on Google, they will see an eye-catching “advertising page” titled “Speech Review Act”. Clicking on this page will also enter the above-mentioned blog forum. Most of the rest of the search results are also against the content, but the source of information is relatively more formal, such as when the Brazilian Congress, the Senate, and other media questioned the latest bill. Network Lab said that Google’s move is suspected of abusing its economic power to influence public opinion and interfere with the voting results of the new bill. Google has denied this accusation, saying that it has never artificially intervened in search rankings. Antitrust watchdog Brazil’s Economic Protection and Administration Council said it would investigate recent anti-legislative campaigns by Google and Facebook parent Meta.
Harmful information frequently breeds social tragedies
The “Financial Times” stated that due to organised public opinion wars and various harmful information on the Internet, many tragedies have occurred in Brazilian society in recent years, including a series of school attacks. In late March this year, a 13-year-old student in Sao Paulo attacked a school with a sharp weapon, causing one death and multiple injuries; in early April, a man in Santa Catarina State attacked a kindergarten with a sharp axe, killing four young childrenyear-old student in Sao Paulo attacked a school with a sharp weapon, causing one death and multiple injuries; in early April, a man in Santa Catarina State attacked a kindergarten with a sharp axe, killing four young children. Brazilian public opinion believes that behind these murders, the bad guidance of social media is fueling the flames. The spread of false information has even affected national politics. On January 8 this year, supporters of former President Bolsonaro forcibly broke into the Brazilian Congress and other institutions during protests and staged a replica of the “Capitol Hill riots” in the United States. It is said that these protesters had listened to rumours about “false election results”. Therefore, the promotion of Bill 2630 is currently on the top agenda of the Lula government.
Many media outlets have compared it to the “Digital Services Act” passed by the EU last year. The “Brazil Report” website believes that the crackdown on this bill is stricter than the EU’s legislation. Later on the 2nd, the Speaker of the Brazilian House of Representatives, Lila, announced that the vote on the bill would be postponed and that the relevant content needed to be further discussed.