Judge orders block of Facebook throughout Brazil over parody account

GlobalA judge in Brazil ordered the blocking of Facebook for failing to take down an account that lampooned a local politician, mayoral candidate Udo Döhler in the town of Joinville. Issuing the ruling (PDF) on October 5 from Santa Catarina state in the South of the country, judge Renato Roberge imposed a daily fine of 30,000 reais per day and ordered the telecommunications regulator ANATEL to block the social network throughout the country. The judge also reprimanded Facebook for failing to provide the IP address of the operator of the parody account. At the time of this writing Facebook was still online.

“ITS Rio is disappointed that the Brazilian courts are threatening to block web services at the infrastructure level as an enforcement tool,” said Fabro Steibel, Executive Director of the Instituto de Technologia & Sociedade do Rio. “Interfering with internet infrastructure can isolate the Brazilian network from the global Internet. The Marco Civil clearly states in Article 9 that blocking web services at the infrastructure layer is not permitted in Brazil. Such blocking at the infrastructure layer also violates the Brazilian Constitution and human rights treaties signed by Brazil, such as Article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights.”

The telecoms regulator, ANATEL, does not need to comply with the blocking order as long as Facebook enjoyed the right to appeal to a higher court. Facebook is not yet blocked, suggesting that the parody page was either removed or the company had lodged an appeal. It is also unclear whether Facebook provided the requested IP address.

Last week, the Brookings Institution released a report detailing the economic impact of internet shutdowns worldwide, including Brazil. The report found that Brazil’s economy lost $116 million over 5 days after judges ordered the blocking of WhatsApp in 2016.

“The blocking of Facebook throughout the entire country of Brazil is a completely disproportionate response to a take-down notice over a parody account,” said Deji Bryce Olukotun, Senior Global Advocacy Manager at Access Now. “Brazil’s economy has already lost more than $100 million dollars due to the repeated blocking of WhatsApp. Disrupting all of Facebook would have even more drastic effects at the very time that Brazil is rebuilding after massive political upheaval. Internet shutdowns don’t restore order or protect rights — they curtail free expression, harm emergency services, and cripple the digital economy. The judicial system in Brazil should uphold the rule of law and overturn this blanket order, which serves only one individual at the expense of users throughout the country.”

The #KeepitOn campaign is supported by more than 100 organizations from nearly 50 countries around the globe who are pushing back on internet shutdowns at every level, from governments to telcos to tech companies to everyday internet users. The full list of organizations is available on the campaign website: https://www.accessnow.org/keepiton/