Brazil Restricts Free Expression with Arrest Warrant for Google Director
The order to arrest Google’s Brazil director for refusing to remove an incendiary YouTube video is just the latest in a series of recent judicial attacks on freedom of expression on the Internet in Brazil. Freedom House calls for the warrant to be dropped and for the internet in Brazil be permitted to serve as a venue for open political debate.
An elections tribunal judge from the southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul issued the warrant for Google’s Brazil director, Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, after he refused a request to take down a video attacking a local mayoral candidate. The judge also ordered that YouTube access be suspended in the state for 24 hours.
Brazil’s electoral laws tightly restrict the content that can be aired by opponents on television and radio about political candidates, but until recently the Internet’s role has not been legally tested. Google maintains that as a platform, it is not responsible for content published by users.
Google has faced increased legal action in Brazil over the past year, including an arrest warrant issued earlier this month in the northeastern state of Paraiba for another Google Brazil official for a similar video. That decision was later overturned by a higher court.
Brazil is rated Free in Freedom House’s 2012 edition of Freedom on the Net, however, it saw an increase in content limitation from 2011 to 2012. Google’s Transparency Report recorded Brazil as having the highest number of government requests to remove content among the countries assessed in 2011.