Publications - 23/06/20

The “Fake News” Bill on Brazil’s Senate imposes new sanctions on Internet providers and enhance the surveillance on the internet

The Brazilian Fake News Bill, which was presented by the congressman Alessandro Vieira at the Brazilian Senate in May 13, aims to create a Brazilian Law on Liberty, Responsibility and Transparency on Internet.

The bill expects to create new guidelines and instruments in order to achieve transparency in social media and digital messages services. The main objective is to discourage the misuse of the Internet, such as the spreading of fake news. For that matter, the bill creates new sanctions for the Internet provider that violates the new guidelines, such as warning, fine, temporary suspension of the activities and definitely prohibition of the practice on the Brazilian ground.

Even though the intentions that justify the creation of such bill are positive, since the widespread of fake news in Brazil is a large issue, the project has been criticized because of the lack of technical terms and the legal uncertainty it may cause. The bill is filled with uncertain concepts, such as “disinformation” and “artificial disseminators”, which can result in an opposite effect than the one intended.

A Brazilian non-profit organization that stand up for internet rights (Coalizão de Direitos na Rede) and assembles 38 research institutions on internet rights launched in their website a document warning about the problems that the law can create and proposing modifications to save the project. The organization warns that the proposal bill modifies the Internet providers responsibility regime, by imposing duties for contents posted by users.

The main goal of the modification is to impose to the Internet provider the burden to oversee the spread of fake news on their websites and hopefully avoid it. However, this can result in an automatization of the surveillance, challenging the Internet freedom of speech right.

In this sense, the sanctions predicted are extremely vague, and it is not clear conducts that could be sanctioned. The problem gets even worse considering that it is up to the judiciary to enforce this measures, but the bill does state the standing criteria to file the lawsuit requesting the applications of this sanctions before the court.

Notwithstanding, the congressman Ângelo Coronel, who is responsible to reporting the bill on the Brazilian Senate, presented a new draft not addressing the actual concerns and adding new ones.

This new draft predicts that the Internet providers shall require and keep users IDs, such as the social security number and their home address and that public authorities can require the user’s information when investigating crimes, which can enhance the surveillance on the Internet.

Besides that, the new proposition includes fines providers up to of R$,00 (ten billion reais), which can be disproportional and arbitrary. The new draft also lacks of a clear definition regarding  conducts could be sanctioned.

Brazilian Senate was expecting to discuss the bill on June 2th 2020 session, but it was postponed after general criticism. A expedite voting process of the bill could lead to its approval without a necessary debate and it could result in passing a law with several legal uncertainties.