Minister Alexandre de Moraes, of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), imposed a fine of BRL 1.2 million on Telegram for non-compliance with the determination to block the channel of federal deputy Nikolas Ferreira (PL-MG). The order came from the minister on January 11, under the justification of support from the parliamentarian and digital influencers for the attacks on public buildings in Brasília on January 8.
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Telegram informed the STF that it complied with part of the decision, but asked Moraes to reconsider the request. The magistrate denied the request to emphasize that the messaging application is obliged to respect and comply with the “direct commands issued by the Judiciary”.
The minister denied the request and said there was “no justification” for non-compliance with the court order:
“The social network Telegram, by failing to comply with the court order, directly questions the authority of the court decision taken within the scope of a criminal investigation, understanding the right to assess its legality and the obligation to comply with it”, wrote the minister. .
The original decision had established a two-hour deadline, under penalty of a daily fine of BRL 100,000, for the channels, profiles and accounts associated with the process. As Telegram took 12 days to respond to the request, and did so partially, Alexandre de Moraes multiplied the original amount 12 times.
Freedom of expression and censorship
On the grounds of freedom of expression, Moraes guaranteed that it is a constitutional principle, but considered that it could not be used as a pretext for committing crimes. The minister said that freedom is “marked” also by responsibility and that this is not a “protective shield” for the practice of impunity in cases of aggression.
The minister also used the decision to defend himself against the accusation of “prior censorship”, something that is prohibited by the Brazilian Constitution:
“This measure does not constitute any prior censorship, constitutionally prohibited even because there is no prohibition on those investigated to manifest themselves on social networks or outside them, as several continue to do, not infrequently repeating the same criminal conduct”, he highlighted.
The objective of the measure would be to prevent the occurrence of new violent acts like those witnessed on January 8, 2023. Telegram would have been chosen by the protesters as a platform for convening this type of protest, according to Moraes, because the platform uses “subterfuges ” to maintain conduct considered illegal by Brazilian law.
Punishment would be a way to hold Telegram accountable
The punishment would be a way to penalize the app for an alleged “indirect collaboration” in recent events, due to non-compliance with the decision. This is a measure that differs from other countries, where social networks and chat apps are exempt from culpability in crimes committed by users.
“The willful non-compliance by the providers involved objectively indicates the agreement with the continuity of the commission of the crimes under investigation, and the refusal to comply with the court order, a true indirect collaboration for the continuity of the criminal activity, through a fraudulent mechanism”, reported Moraes in action.
Telegram will have five days to pay the fixed fine, starting from yesterday (25). The STF has not yet said what will happen if the messenger continues without fully complying with the decision.