LatinNews Daily - 10 May 2023

BRAZIL: Tech platform Telegram rails against online regulation

On 9 May, Brazilian users of the messaging app Telegram were sent a mass message detailing the tech firm’s criticisms of the government’s proposed online regulation bill (commonly known as the ‘fake news’ bill).


This latest effort from a tech company to sway public opinion against the government’s legislative agenda comes amid rising tensions between ‘big tech’ and the Brazilian authorities. International companies which manage large online platforms, such as the search engine Google, Meta (owner of Facebook and Instagram), and Telegram, have vocally opposed the bill presented to congress by allies of Brazil’s centre-left governing coalition. The battle over the ‘fake news’ bill, which had been due for a vote in the lower house last week, could intensify up to the day of the postponed vote.

  • The tech giants will find support among right-wing parties, which enjoy a strong presence in both houses of congress and have preached the importance of free speech. Some centrist and left-wing parties, on the other hand, have backed the government’s efforts to clamp down on online misinformation and hate speech.
  • Telegram’s mass message claimed that the ‘fake news’ bill would “kill the modern internet” and that it would create a “system of permanent vigilance, similar to countries with antidemocratic regimes”, referring to the bill’s obligation of tech companies to provide regular content moderation reports and notify Brazilian authorities of possible harmful content that may incite violence or criminal activity.
  • This is not the first clash between Telegram and the authorities; the app had been suspended in Brazil from 26-29 April because of the company’s failure to comply with a court order to submit user data to the federal police (PF), who have been investigating neo-Nazi and other extremist groups suspected of inciting attacks on schools. PF investigators believed that Telegram was one of the groups’ main communication platforms.  

Looking Ahead: The São Paulo office of the federal public prosecutor (MPF) has demanded information from Telegram regarding the mass message, including questions about the company’s policy on sending mass communications, which are not technical updates, to all users, even users who have not joined the Telegram Notifications channel. The MPF has given Telegram a deadline of 10 days to provide the information.

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