Brazil must hold digital platforms accountable using human rights standards

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Brazil is currently debating how to regulate digital platforms, which creates significant challenges and has sparked important discussions regarding the Brazilian population’s digital rights. The presentation of a draft bill, “PL-2630,” and cases pending in the country’s constitutional court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), have intensified the focus on these issues.

First presented in 2020, PL-2630 is also known as the “Fake News Law.” Since its inception, civil society organizations such as Coalizão Direitos na Rede have made multiple efforts to improve the proposal and counteract the threats it could generate. 

A new draft of the bill was launched in 2022, against the backdrop of a failed attempt from the extreme right to overthrow President Lula da Silva’s new administration, and a spike of violent attacks in Brazilian schools. In the new draft, Brazil’s Executive Branch suggested several changes, inspired by Germany’s NetzDG, the European Union’s Digital Services Act (DSA), and the U.K.’s controversial Online Safety Bill. The newly published version builds on some of those proposals, such as creating rules for risk assessment, duty of care obligations, and new exceptions to Brazil’s general online intermediary liability rules.

So far, PL-2630 has established itself as the Brazilian administration’s main legislative tool for addressing their growing concerns about the use and role of digital technologies in enabling violence and polarization, such as social media disinformation and coordinated violent attacks online. 

As part of civil society’s ongoing engagement in the debate around platform regulation in Brazil, Access Now and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have prepared a joint policy brief delving into the reasons Brazilian society should be interested in discussions surrounding PL-2630, as well as highlighting the draft law’s problematic points that need to be addressed. These include:

  • Neutralizing the risk of content-based regulations being abused, dropping duty-of-care obligations, focusing on systemic impact assessments, and explicitly clarifying that platform accountability does not mean monitoring and filtering user content more generally.
  • Ensuring robust checks and balances, as well as safeguards to due process, when specific rules are applied in situations of conflict or imminent risk.
  • Carefully designing, establishing, and adequately resourcing a truly independent and participative multi-stakeholder oversight structure.
  • Establishing clear safeguards against increasing surveillance and related security risks. 
  • Refrain from giving special speech protections to government officials, who bear special responsibilities under human rights standards. 
  • Ensuring sanctions follow human rights standards and due process, particularly when it involves blocking online applications.

We urge the Rapporteur Deputy, Orlando Silva, and the lawmakers involved in the discussion and approval of the bill to consider proposals that will strengthen people’s rights in the face of pervasive digital applications, instead of opening the door to threats. Our policy brief presents relevant foundations, rooted in human rights standards, for addressing the challenges of an evolving relationship between technology and people.

Access Now and EFF reiterate our commitment to continue our advocacy articulating concerns and principles to nurture Brazil’s ongoing debate around digital platform regulation.

By: Agneris Sampieri and Veridiana Alimonti (EFF)