Publications - 27/07/20

Facebook’s decision to remove Fake News networks could have criminal implications under Brazilian law

Facebook released a public note widely reported on its web page to announce that it has removed four separate networks from their platforms for violations of  its policy against foreign interference and coordinated inauthentic behavior. These networks are originally from Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Ukraine, and the United States.

In Brazil, the social media removed 33 accounts, 14 pages and 1 group on Facebook, and 37 accounts on Instagram, as these profiles were allegedly involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior. It was identified that clusters of connected activity creating a network focused on making duplicate and fake accounts, in order to avoid the social media automatic enforcement system.

In this way, these clusters could have created fictional profiles posing as reporters and managed pages masquerading as news outlets, prompting a credible appearance for disseminating Fake News and disinformation. Facebook still claims that, even though these clusters found ways to hide their identity, it has encountered connections between theses clusters and the people associated with the Brazilian Social-Liberal Party (PSL), including employees of the cabinets of Anderson Moraes (state deputy in São Paulo), Alana Passos (state deputy in Rio de Janeiro), Eduardo Bolsonaro (congressman), Flávio Bolsonaro (senator), and Jair Bolsonaro (the President of Brazil).

The dissemination of Fake News and disinformation activity described by Facebook does not constitute a crime under Brazilian law. Despite that, it is certain that these conducts could pose criminal implications, should Brazilian authorities prove that these activities were perpetuated with the intention to cause harm to the honor and image of specific targets.

In this sense, the Brazilian Federal Police moved to the Brazilian Supreme Court to have issue a warrant granting access to the data collected by Facebook’s investigation, which was authorized by the Supreme Court Minister Alexandre de Moraes. This decision was issued in connection with the ‘Fake News’ and the ‘antidemocratic acts’ probes. These procedures, respectively, investigate possible crimes against the honor and image of the Supreme Court Ministers and possible antidemocratic acts unlawful financing, such as public manifestations claiming for the return of the military regime in Brazil.

Likewise, the president of a Parliament Committee responsible for the investigation of Fake News on the internet, congressman Angelo Coronel from the Social-Democratic Party of Brazil, forwarded a requirement to Facebook demanding that the data collected by the social media be shared with the Brazilian Congress. The committee was formed to assess the use of fake accounts on social media and cybernetic attacks that may have influenced the 2018 Brazilian presidential election, and now investigates the possible connection of employees of the actual government with the Fake News dissemination.

If the police proceedings pending on the Brazilian Supreme Courts or the Parliament Committee find that criminal conducts did happen during the investigations, the federal and regional prosecutor offices can criminally charge the responsible parties for the dissemination of disinformation.