On Friday, Brazil’s Supreme Court levied a hefty fine of 1.92million reais ( about $368,000) on Facebook for not compiling with its orders. Last month, following a congressional inquiry and a separate Supreme Court investigation over the “fake news attacks” on the country’s judiciary, the apex court asked the social media giant to block the accounts of fake news propellers. The investigation revealed that most of such accounts belonged to the supporters of Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro.
As per the order, the social media site did block the access those accounts but only from Brazil, and failed to suspend those accounts and their access world wide. But later due to the increasing pressure from the jury on local Facebook team, the company did block the accounts globally. The court further imposed 100,000 reais (about $19,000) for each day the company failed to comply with its orders.
In its defence, a Facebook spokesperson said that the company had followed the order, which it considered “extreme” by “restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil.” The company said that the decision was “conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide”. “Given the threat of criminal liability to a local employee, at this point we see no other alternative than complying with the decision by blocking the accounts globally, while we appeal to the Supreme Court,” the spokesperson added.
The Brazilian court asked the social media platforms, including Facebook and Twitter to block 12 and 16 accounts respectively. Both the companies, though have complied with the orders of the Brazilian court but have also urged the jury to review its decision.
Among the blocked accounts many belonged to the staff of pro-Bolsonaro camp, some former ministers and two of Bolsonaro’s sons. Last month, while suspending the accounts on Facebook and Instagram, the social media company said that those accounts were spreading fake news by creating “fictitious personas posing as reporters” and “masquerading as news outlets”.
Besides, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab, analysing the activity of those accounts, also backed the Facebook’s claims. Luiza Bandeira, one of its researcher, told Reuters, “We have known for a long time that when people disagree with Bolsonaro they are targeted by this machine that uses online disinformation to mock and discredit them…So knowing now that part of these attacks are coming from people directly related to the Bolsonaro family, that explains a lot.”
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