With polls predicting electoral defeat, Brazil's president seeks renewed legitimacy for his divisive rhetoric by ensuring social media platforms toe the line.
The attempts by Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro to engineer social media regulation to keep his messages and those of his supporters safe from removal is yet another move which appears to be taken straight from the authoritarians' playbook so dear to his close ally and role model, Donald Trump.
Bolsonaro's motives to go after social media platforms are obvious. If social media sites dared to de-platform Trump, they can easily come after the far-right president of Brazil and his followers for spreading disinformation and sharing incendiary speech ahead of the presidential elections in Brazil – which polls predict Bolsonaro is set to lose.
Disinformation has long been a feature of Bolsonaro's social media activity, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube already removing several of his posts due to their unfounded claims about COVID-19. But some analysts such as Direitos Na rede – a coalition of Brazilian civil society and academic organizations – say social media platforms are not doing enough to contain Bolsonaro and are tolerating alleged repeated violations to their terms of service.
The regulation, first passed via the executive as a provisional measure, sought to limit the speech that social media platforms could remove from their sites, precluding their ability to fight fake news, harassment and hate speech online. As predicted by analysts, the measure was quickly struck down first by the Brazilian Senate and then its Supreme Court.
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