Brazilian government evaluates foundations for social media regulation

Multiple cabinet ministries should be in charge of different aspects of social media regulation. But the president's press office will shoulder most of the responsibility
Brazilian government evaluates foundations for social media regulation
Art by Rodolfo Almeida with intervention over photograph b Marcelo Camargo/Agência Brasil
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In April 2022, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his close allies warned that regulating social media platforms — especially as part of an effort to deal with disinformation — would be a hot-button issue for a Workers’ Party government in the case of an election victory.

Since then, some hints of how the party plans to deal with the issue have been revealed. But the puzzle still has many undefined parts.

One thing is clear: the government’s approach to social media regulations will involve a number of cabinet departments, not falling onto a single ministry or agency.

As soon as the new government stepped into office, it sought to push through the so-called “Fake News bill,” which has stalled in Congress for over a year. New key positions that will help create the structures of a new regulatory framework in the medium term have been created in the federal bureaucracy.

Tech news website Núcleo spoke with a source privy to government discussions on the matter, who says that, before starting the regulatory debate, the administration must first encourage integration between the Justice Ministry, the presidency’s press office, and the Solicitor General’s Office.

Flight plan for social media regulations

The Executive branch’s most immediate priority is to identify the perpetrators and financiers of the Brasília riots on January 8, when a coup-mongering mass vandalized the buildings of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the presidential palace.

The attacks could help push social network regulation to the center of the political debate, but the source says nothing will be done in a hurry. The leading issues on the matter now involve the following topics:

  • The sustainability of journalism;
  • Media education;
  • Protection against violation of individual and collective rights;
  • The review of current regulatory legislation.

Communications working group

In its final report, the transition team’s working group on communications issues stated that Brazil needs to be a pioneer in regulating digital platforms, as it was when the country approved its Civil Rights Framework for the Internet in 2014.

The working group recommended launching a public consultation in partnership with the Internet Steering Committee (CGI) within the first 100 days of government.

Presidential press office

The presidency’s press office, led by Workers’ Party Congressman Paulo Pimenta, should play a central role in any regulatory effort. To push this agenda forward, on the first day of the new government, the administration created a department for digital policies under the press secretary’s umbrella.

This office will be responsible for “formulating and implementing public policies to promote freedom of expression, access to information, and combating disinformation and hate speech on the internet, in conjunction with the Justice Ministry.” The work will be based on cooperation with other departments and government agencies, in addition to universities, civil society, and the private sector.

Justice Ministry

The digital rights coordination office was created within the Justice Ministry, which will work “aiming at normative changes” so that Brazilian legislation may be aligned with best international practices, according to Justice Minister Flávio Dino.

For the position, Mr. Dino appointed lawyer Estela Aranha, president of the data protection special commission of the Brazilian Bar Association. Ms. Aranha is also a researcher at the Center for Law, Internet, and Society at the Public Law Institute college.

Solicitor General’s Office

The Solicitor General’s Office created an office to promote the “defense of democracy,” led by a team of four people. One of its objectives is to file lawsuits to “fight disinformation on public policies.” It can also work for “the preservation of the legitimacy of the branches of government.”

The creation of this attorney’s office generated some criticism, such as the allegation that there is no legal definition on what constitutes “disinformation in public policies.”

Some of Lula’s opponents consider that it could be akin to a censorship mechanism, but legal experts from the Solicitor General’s Office published an op-ed on legal news website Jota, saying “there is no risk of confusing criticism, even if cutting, or incorrect information, but transmitted in good faith, with disinformation.”

This report was translated by The Brazilian Report.

Reporting by Sérgio Spagnuolo and Laís Martins
Editing by Alexandre Orrico

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