The government has been poring over a draft drafted by the Ministry of Tourism that amends the Marco Civil da Internet to prohibit platforms from banning accounts or content, unless under a court order. The proposal argues that networks like Facebook and Twitter have a moderation policy that violates the right to freedom of expression. In a public hearing at the Chamber of Human Rights and Minorities this Wednesday (2), opposition parties and experts criticized the text.
Opposition threatens to overturn government draft
The audience, which convened research experts on content moderation, also invited representatives from major platforms such as Google/YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, but none of them attended.
Opposition parties, such as PSOL and PT, claim that the proposal to change the Marco Civil da Internet is unconstitutional and gives impunity to posts by supporters and allied pockets “that challenge science and facts.” For the parliamentarians, there is a cause bias in the project, since for them it is the government that spreads the most misinformation on the networks.
Federal Deputy Carlos Veras (PT-PE), who called the hearing, proposed overturning the draft — if approved — by means of a legislative decree in the Chamber of Deputies. “We decided to hold this public hearing beforehand to sensitize the government, so that they don’t publish a decree that, instead of solving distortions, causes much more problems, including for the freedom of expression of the Brazilian people”, completed the congressman.
Government ally claims risk to freedom of expression
Deputy ally of the government Carla Zambelli (PSL-SP) defended that a regulation for the moderation policies of social networks is necessary. She had 19 posts deleted from Facebook for citing chloroquine — a drug with no proven efficacy in combating COVID-19, widely publicized by pocketnarists as a way to treat the disease.
“There wasn’t any kind of crime, it was just an opinion,” said Zambelli. “Freedom of expression and thought has to be guaranteed. If you are violating a law, you can take a video off the air. Except for these cases, the platforms could not take these videos off the air.” The PSL deputy argues that currently the user can appeal bans only through the courts: “we cannot be penalized, and then discuss our broad defense in the Judiciary”.
Changing the Civil Rights Framework for the Internet is unconstitutional
Experts in digital law and content moderation policies criticized the possible amendment to the Marco Civil and the way in which it could be approved without consulting civil society – three of the six invited to the debate called it unconstitutional.
For Jonas Valente, from the Communication Policy Laboratory at UnB, it is necessary to have control over the moderation of content on the networks, as algorithms make a lot of mistakes when banning accounts or content. However, he says that it is not the government’s role to define the regulation of networks: “An asymmetric treatment. You can’t treat an individual’s blog as you treat large platforms with tens of millions of users.”
The Ministry of Tourism’s proposal was also criticized for its lack of clarity – it is not known how the measure could affect different platforms. Demi Getschko, adviser to the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI), says she can divide and segment the network. “The internet is open to everyone, but sometimes, in the anxiety of solving problems that arise, measures are taken that are much worse than those that were tried to be solved”, he added.
Mariana Valente, a researcher at the Internet Lab, believes that the text limits the role of platforms in banning users who violate conduct. “The idea is content exclusion only by legal order, but this does not only apply to the user: also to iFood that delivers spoiled food, to Uber that harasses passengers, to a provider that defrauds sales. It can even affect an opinion site about movies, for example,” said the expert. “Instead of guaranteeing freedom, it will generate new controls.”
With information: Agency Chamber of Deputies