Expected to happen this Thursday (25), the vote on the bill (PL) 2,630 / 2020 – also known as "law to combat fake news – has been under pressure from senators to be postponed yet again. However, the president of the House, Davi Alcolumbre (DEM-AP), confirmed that it will go to plenary on the planned day, and the final text of the proposal has already been presented by the rapporteur, Senator Angelo Coronel (PSD-BA),
Alcolumbre said that the vote will make Thursday “a historic day” for the National Congress and for Brazilian society: "We will vote on this project that will guide social media, putting a tidying brake on the aggressions, threats, violence and offenses that millions of Brazilians suffer in the networks ", he said. "We are building a proposal that can reconcile freedom of expression but, above all, preserve the integrity of Brazilians".
PL 2.630 brings several controversial points and has been facing resistance from the senators. Last Tuesday (23), Senator Alvaro Dias (Pode-PR) submitted a request asking for the vote on the bill to be postponed. On social media, other senators supported the idea, arguing that the topic needs more discussion – to be an example, the Marco Civil da Internet demanded four years of debates and discussions between different sectors of society. Today, the law is a reference among several countries in the world.
"A project as controversial as this one, which interferes in the lives of more than 170 million Brazilians, cannot fail to be widely discussed in the Constitution and Justice Commission (CCJ)", defended Dias.
Álvaro Dias' opinion is corroborated by Senator Plínio Valério (PSDB-AM). He argued that the bill should only be voted on after the end of the Covid-19 pandemic, so that senators can focus their votes on measures to combat the disease. He also warned against taking a “passionate” approach to the topic. “Experts reinforce the risk of political persecution, among other loopholes and failures. I advocate broad and dispassionate debate before the vote. I reaffirm that if you are forced to vote on the project this Thursday, I will vote against it, ”he said.
Senator Eliziane Gama (Cidadania-MA) emphasized that the idea is not to abandon the project, but to eliminate controversial points and produce a better text. “We are going to work to build a proposal of greater consensus, focused on respect for freedom of expression. It is a sensitive topic that deserves great care, ”he said.
If, on the one hand, part of the Senate asks for more time to analyze the bill, another part of the legislature wants the PL to enter the plenary as soon as possible. During Tuesday's remote session, Senator Humberto Costa (PT-PE) said he hopes to see the bill approved later this week. For him, there is no conflict between policing social networks against manipulative activities and ensuring users' freedom. "It is perfectly possible to guarantee freedom of expression and have mechanisms to hold those who use robots to account, carry out mass shots and drive," he declared. "" In the event of a crime, tracking can be established and those responsible can be identified.
The interest in PL 2,630 by senators can be analyzed under the number of amendments submitted by them. By the end of this Wednesday (24), there were 86, and many of them propose the hardening of the measures contained in the original text.
One of the most controversial points was suggested by senators Rose de Freitas (Pode-ES), Nelsinho Trad (PSD-MS), Dário Berger (MDB-SC) and Jorge Kajuru (Cidadania-GO). In the amendments presented, they suggest that new and old profiles on virtual platforms such as Facebook and Twitter be backed by identity documents, with photos, of their holders. Rogério Carvalho (PT-SE), Paulo Paim (PT-RS) and Jader Barbalho (MDB-PA) defend the creation of reporting channels for the identification and exclusion of content considered fraudulent. Jader, moreover, wants the inclusion of the crime of “dissemination of disinformation” in the Penal Code.
Nelsinho Trad, once again, proposes that content removed from networks should also be removed from Internet search engines. In turn, Styvenson Valentim (Pode-RN) defends the removal not only of material considered false, but also of the account or profile responsible for its publication.
Fabiano Contarato (Rede-ES) wants to extend the rules of the project to all social networks, and not just those with more than two million users – as the current text predicts. He also proposes measures to restrict digital advertising on portals identified as distributors of fake news.
Also during the deliberative session last Tuesday, President Davi Alcolumbre and the Plenary expressed solidarity with Senator Nelsinho Trad, who reported having been the victim of false news earlier this week. Former federal deputy Roberto Jefferson said on a social network that relatives of the senator would have received emergency aid from the federal government, aimed at low-income citizens. Trad said the accusation was false and that he would file a complaint with the Federal Police.
Both the original version and the changes already anticipated by the rapporteur have been criticized by Internet rights experts for creating risks to freedom of expression, users' privacy and digital inclusion.
PL 2,630 establishes rules for the use and operation of social networks and private message services via the Internet, with the objective of combating the spread of false and manipulated content. In its original version, it determines that platforms exclude content based on the intervention of independent verifiers (fact-checkers), who will classify material as false, manipulated or uninformative.
This is the most controversial point of the project so far. The rule is seen as a form of censorship. Senator Reguffe (Pode-DF), for example, declares to be against the measure.
“It is one thing to punish anyone who is proven to slander someone, the current legislation already provides for compensation. Another thing is to create a committee to analyze content. I don't agree at all. This opens a dangerous breach for the restriction of freedom of expression ”, he published on his social networks.
The author of the initiative, Senator Alessandro Vieira (Cidadania-SE), has already asked for the withdrawal of these points. In an amendment to the bill, he said he sees no risk to freedoms in its original wording, but calls for changes to eliminate fears. The new version proposed by him expressly prohibits platforms from removing content under the allegation of fake news. The interventions would be restricted to accounts and profiles considered inauthentic and the distribution of content in bulk or against payment.
Senator Angelo Coronel signaled that he will accept the request. On the other hand, among the points of the project that he must recrudescente is the registration of users on social networks and messaging services, which should bring the requirement of identification by documentation. Colonel also wants to include rules for tracing the origin of messages considered harmful, requiring the registration of his entire share path to the original source.
In addition, accounts that are linked to the government and public interest must have the administrators identified. In the case of these accounts, the Public Ministry will have to inspect and create specialized sectors to act in the event of damage to users of networks or applications.
What the experts say
The short time to discuss the impacts of PL 2630 is one of the main complaints from experts and sectors of civil society.
“To take just one example, the Marco Civil da Internet in Brazil took four years between discussions with society to be elaborated. And yet, even though it is a reference for other countries in the world, it still needs constant improvement ”, said Marcos Dantas, professor at the UFRJ School of Communication and member of CGI.br, the Internet Steering Committee in Brazil. “This PL, although well intentioned, is an extremely complex subject and cannot be touched with this speed. It is not possible to discuss a topic of this nature, with responsibility, in just one month, especially when the country faces a pandemic ”, he adds.
Dantas' opinion is corroborated by Francisco Brito, director of InternetLab, an independent center for interdisciplinary research in the areas of law and technology. Specialist in monitoring public policies related to technology, he says:
“The good projects we had to regulate the internet in Brazil were those that were created over time, widely discussed and with different hypotheses tested. And that is not being done now. There is not even a commission installed for the debate. In addition, there is still a diagnostic issue that this law does not address. What exactly is the problem? There are several symptoms: there is a problem of rumors, a problem of crisis of confidence in relation to the press and also of political polarization. And people talk about this PL as if it were going to solve these last two issues, in addition to fake news. And this is not the case. Even because everyone is connected to each other ”.