Brazil’s Supreme Court judge, Alexandre de Moraes, has ordered an investigation into Google and Telegram over their “abusive campaign” against a bill aimed at tackling disinformation online. The legislation, introduced in 2020, would regulate how tech companies deal with certain types of content and require them to hire external auditors. Supporters say the bill is needed to combat disinformation and online extremism, but opponents argue it would create an Orwellian “Truth Ministry” to censor citizens’ views. Both Google and Telegram have warned the bill threatens free speech and democracy.
The bill has been a source of controversy in Brazil, particularly since supporters of ex-president Jair Bolsonaro allegedly incited rioting in Brasilia following his election loss to leftist successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, amid claims of electoral fraud spread via social media. Justice Moraes’ investigation will focus on the two companies and their executives in Brazil. Justice Minister Flavio Dino accused Google of manipulating search results to display content opposing the bill more prominently, a charge the company denies. Consumer protection authorities also ordered Google to balance its messages against the bill with “counter-propaganda” or face a fine of one million reais ($200,000) per hour.