- Maia supports the bill provision which obliges WhatsApp to maintain traceability of messages so that it can reach their origin;
- The speaker said that a recent Brazilian Supreme Court investigation into social media attacks against its members has already helped curtail these actions.
Brazilian House Speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Tuesday that lawmakers are currently finalizing the text of a bill targeting those that finance “fake news” attacks on social media sites, adding that it could be voted on by the end of this year.
According to Maia, social media platforms must face some kind of accountability for the spread of false content or misinformation, in addition to attacks made on their platforms.
Holding social media accountable is one of the most controversial points in the Fake News Bill, approved by the Senate and which is now being analyzed by the Lower House of Brazil’s Congress. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp claim that they cannot be held responsible for deciding whether or not to remove content and that users are accountable for content.
“Platforms, of course, will say that they are unable to resolve this and that everything is against freedom of expression and a risk for democracy, but I think that the risk of the status quo for democracy and freedom is much greater. The way people are attacked and threatened is much more serious for democracy than an attempt to move forward in a plural debate in relation to this”, he said.
Traceability of messages on WhatsApp
Maia also pointed out that the bill should keep one of the provisions approved in the Senate and criticized by WhatsApp, which obliges the messaging app to maintain the traceability of messages so that it can reach their origin. The platform sees it as a way to control users.
Maia, however, argues that this measure is necessary so that it is possible to reach, if necessary, the source of false information and possible sponsors of its spread.
Fear of prosecution curtails attacks
Maia said that a recent Brazilian Supreme Court investigation into social media attacks against its members has already helped curtail these types of groups through the fear of prosecution.
The Supreme Court suspended 16 accounts and 12 pages of digital influencers who defend Bolsonaro on social media, including politicians, businessmen and political activists with Twitter and Facebook accounts.
The draft of the Brazilian bill was approved in the Senate on June 30, but the lower house created a working group to suggest modifications. Those changes will be finalized in two weeks, Maia said.
President Jair Bolsonaro’s government opposes the bill.
“In 2019 radical movements that support the president created their own dynamic, and I have no doubt that they will try to influence (public opinion),” said Maia, an opponent of the right-wing Brazilian president. “If there are no clear rules, they will have a very big impact.”