The Judicial and Legislative Powers of Brazil inflicted a foreseeable defeat on President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday. The Minister of the Supreme Federal Court, Rosa Weber, suspended the processing of the provisional measure that modified a law with the aim of making it difficult to eliminate content that spread disinformation on social networks. The president’s objective was to protect the Bolsonarista networks that viralize false news in his favor. At the same time that Weber’s decision was recorded, the president of the National Congress, Senator Rodrigo Pacheco, formalized the return of this same precautionary measure to the Executive. In practice, changes determined by the president cease to exist.
Bolsonaro signed the measure – which was scheduled to come into effect in October – a day before the Brazilian Independence party, on September 6, a day marked by street demonstrations by his followers. The new provision prohibited, under penalty of a fine, companies such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube from removing content and profiles that violated their terms of service, except for “just cause”, that is, requiring the mediation of the Brazilian Justice.
The criteria for removing content could be related to pedophilia, pornography, the promotion of terrorism and drug trafficking, among others. However, the norm did not foresee the elimination of false content, incitement to hatred, violence or virtual harassment. In practice, it would be a kind of shield for Bolsonaro himself, who has already had videos withdrawn for spreading the use of drugs with proven ineffectiveness against covid-19. The measure would avoid, for example, a punishment like the one received by his ally Donald Trump, banned from Facebook and Twitter in January this year for inciting the invasion of the Capitol.
Returning an interim measure to the president is not a trivial political act. On the contrary, it is something strong and exceptional. It occurs when legislators notice that there is no urgency or relevance to debate an issue proposed by the Executive, but especially when the president goes through a moment of fragility. Bolsonaro is in one of the worst periods of his government, with his popularity in decline and still under the negative effect of his speeches during the demonstrations of his voters on September 7. In front of thousands of his followers, he said that he would stop complying with the decisions signed by the Supreme Court Minister, Alexandre de Moraes, who is investigating the president and a network of Bolsonarians for spreading hoaxes.
The Court reacted to the attacks the day after the acts. The president of the Supreme Court, Luiz Fux, suggested that Bolsonaro had committed a crime of responsibility, which represents a reason to initiate an impeachment process. This forced Bolsonaro to recant to stay in office. The brake on the president occurred the same day that the president once again defended disinformation, this time in an official speech at the Planalto Palace. “Fake news is part of our life. Who has never told a lie to his girlfriend? ”He joked at a ceremony.
The president also softened the attacks he has made on the other powers. “What would the Executive do without the Senate? Without the Chamber? And also, why not say it, in many moments, without our Supreme Federal Court? We are one body. Our good understanding is the joy of our people ”, he declared.
Bolsonaro also said Tuesday that his undemocratic tone, with which he threatened not to comply with court sentences and called Judge Alexandre de Moraes a scoundrel, was a mistake. “Who has not ever been wrong to say something? Sometimes it costs us dearly, but it is better to live. Just like the press, right? It is better to live like this, in freedom, than not to have freedom. It is impossible that we do not believe in the future of this nation, having the Legislative, the Judicial, understanding each other more and more for the common good of all of us ”.
Bolsonaro’s apparent restraint has reason to be. After September 7, he felt that Congress and the judiciary erected a barrier to his actions. Ultimately, this may lead to their removal, although it is still a long shot. But that does not mean that the other powers of the state are willing to collaborate with the president’s agenda, as became clear on Tuesday.
The magistrate who suspended Bolsonaro’s measure did not see urgency or relevance in the measure. The president of the Senate used the same argument when rejecting the proposal. The lawyer Omar Kaminski, specialist in digital law and manager of the Observatory of the Civil Framework of the Internet, affirms that the provisional measure seems more like a safe-conduct for an excessive freedom of expression, without restraints and without limits, “even to transmit false news or create parallel realities or bubbles of new currents, of legal understandings different from the current ones, with the aim of at least unstructuring or deconstructing the norms ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.