The president of the Brazilian Senate on Tuesday, September 14, rejected a decree signed by the President of the Federal Republic of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, last week, which changed the rules for moderation of content on social networks.
Rodrigo Pacheco, head of the Upper House, explained that Bolsonaro’s decree violated constitutional rules and generated a “Legal uncertainty”. He therefore sent it back to the President, leaving it ineffective.
This decree, with immediate effect but which had to be ratified by Congress to have the force of law, was intended, according to the government, to combat “The arbitrary and unjustified deletion of accounts, profiles and content by suppliers”. The text establishes a series of hypotheses for which there would be a “Just cause” to remove content or suspend users (for example, the commission of crimes, violence) and impose new protocols on platforms to enforce these suspensions.
Mr. Pacheco warned that questions related to “Political rights, freedom of expression, communication and manifestation of thought” cannot be dealt with in a decree having the force of law, with immediate effect, and that it is for Congress to analyze a question of a “Great technical complexity” like this one.
Facebook, other concerned companies and civil society organizations had already warned that the decree was unconstitutional, while opposition lawmakers had taken justice to try to stop it.
The far-right president, who has already had content removed for disseminating false information on Covid-19, describes “Censorship” the suspension of accounts or the removal of content that the platforms have applied against him and that of some of his supporters.
Subject to judicial inquiries and seeing his popularity erode due to his chaotic management of the pandemic, Jair Bolsonaro had issued this decree on the eve of a tense day of mass protests, last Tuesday, in during which he had inflamed his supporters with further attacks on institutions, especially the judiciary.
A few days later, Mr. Bolsonaro had backpedaled, assuring his respect for state institutions and affirming that his serious accusations against justice had been pronounced “In the heat of the moment”.