Brazil is trying to regulate monetized content online – officially

By Victor Pinheiro

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – The Brazilian government is considering whether to regulate internet platforms with content that generates revenue such as advertising, its secretary for digital policy, Joao Brant, said on Friday.

The idea would be for a regulator to hold such platforms, rather than consumers, accountable for monetized content, Brant told Reuters.

Another goal is to “prevent the networks from being used to spread and promote crime and illegal content,” particularly after the riots by supporters of former far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in Brasilia in January, fueled by misinformation about the election, in which he lost October.

Brant said President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s administration also intends to hold companies accountable for stopping misinformation, hate speech and other crimes on their social media platforms. Platforms are not held responsible for individual content, but for how carefully they protect the “digital environment”, he said in an interview.

Brant didn’t explain what the regulator would look like, but said the government wants to regulate monetized content and prevent the platforms from spreading misinformation.

“What the body would do would be to monitor whether the platforms are doing well on their commitments and not deal with individual content that is posted by users. That has to be left to the courts,” he said.

Brant did not specify what role the judiciary would play in combating misinformation.

Any proposal would require changes to the regulatory framework in the 2014 law known as the “Marco Civil,” which governs the internet in Brazil and protects users’ rights.

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Article 19 of the law exempts platforms from legal responsibility “for damage caused by content generated by third parties”, unless there is an express court order to remove the content.

For Brant, the current framework “creates an incentive for platforms not to care about the public space of debate”.

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The lack of accountability for content that is promoted, monetized or presented as advertising needs to be reconsidered, he said, adding, “It’s very bad that they don’t take responsibility for that content.”

Brazil’s Supreme Court has been debating the constitutionality of Article 19 since 2017, based on a lawsuit brought by Meta Platforms Inc. Meta, owners of Facebook and WhatsApp.

Meta questioned its responsibility for removing content without a court order in a case involving a fake Facebook profile. The court has scheduled a public hearing on the issue for March 28.

(This story has been refiled to correct the byline)

(Reporting by Victor Pinheiro, Debora Ely and Bernardo Barbosa; Editing by David Gregorio)