Facebook Removes Conservative Brazilian Accounts After Court Declares Them ‘Fake News’

FILE - In this Thursday, Jan. 4, 2018, file photo, a man enters his Facebook page, at a restaurant in Brasilia, Brazil. Federal prosecutors in Latin America's biggest country have opened an investigation to determine if Cambridge Analytica illegally used the profiles of millions of Brazilian Facebook users. (AP Photo/Eraldo …
Eraldo Peres/AP Photo

Facebook announced on Sunday that it would comply with a Brazilian Supreme Court order to remove 12 accounts belonging to supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro.

The court claimed that the accounts were guilty of “fake news” and forced the American company to delete them. In a company statement, Facebook said it would comply with the order to avoid risking criminal liability for employees in Brazil, but called the measure “extreme” and a “threat to freedom of expression” outside of Brazil.

The statement read:

Facebook complied with the order of blocking these accounts in Brazil by restricting the ability for the target Pages and Profiles to be seen from IP locations in Brazil. People from IP locations in Brazil were not capable of seeing these Pages and Profiles even if the targets had changed their IP location.

This new legal order is extreme, posing a threat to freedom of expression outside of Brazil’s jurisdiction and conflicting with laws and jurisdictions worldwide. Given the threat of criminal liability to a local employee, at this point we see no other alternative than complying with the decision by blocking the accounts globally, while we appeal to the Supreme Court.

Last Friday, Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes also ordered Facebook to pay a 1.92-million-real ($367,000) fine for “non-compliance” with the initial order, adding that it would face additional daily fines of 100,000 reais ($19,000) if it did not remove the accounts worldwide.

De Moraes has become an unpopular figure among Bolsonaro supporters, many of whom accuse him of trying to usurp power from Bolsonaro. In May, the 51-year-old ordered raids against 29 comedians, YouTubers, and other pro-Bolsonaro journalists as part of a supposed crackdown on “fake news.”

Since Bolsonaro’s election in 2018, Facebook has repeatedly targeted him and his followers for censorship. Even before his victory, the network blacklisted accounts and pages described as his “main network of support” for supposedly violating the website’s rules related to spam.

The company confirmed that it had removed a number of allegedly fake pro-Bolsonaro accounts, which it claimed had links to his employees and two of his sons. In March, Facebook also removed a post by the president himself for stating the drug “hydroxychloroquine is working in all places” to treat the Chinese coronavirus, on the grounds that he was spreading “misinformation that could lead to physical harm.”

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