Google has finally blocked access for Brazilian users to a YouTube video criticising a mayoral candidate after it lost a court appeal. Head of the company’s operations in Brazil, Fabio Coelho had been detained and questioned by police on Wednesday, after a judge ordered his arrest for failing to remove the video, but admitted defeat in a statement when Google’s court appeal was denied.
“We learned that our final legal appeal has been denied and so now we have no choice but to block the video in Brazil,” said Coelho. “We are deeply disappointed that we have never had the full opportunity to argue in court that these were legitimate free speech videos and should remain available in Brazil.”
Brazil has very strict electoral laws banning content that “offends the dignity or decorum” of candidates in the run up to polling, but Google had argued that it was not responsible for third party content posted on its site.
The YouTube videos in question – still accessible outside Brazil – criticise Alcides Bernal, candidate for mayor of Campo Grande, a city of 800,000 near the central Pantanal marshlands. The videos accuse Bernal of money laundering and hiding an alleged paternity suit against him.
Freedom of speech
The incident has stirred a national debate on freedom of speech in Brazil in a week when another judge in the southern state of Parana ordered Google to remove the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video that sparked riots in the Arab world last week.
Jose Zagallo, head of the Brazilian Bar Association’s Commission focusing on information technology law, told the Associated Press that Brazil’s laws unfairly hold services like Google liable for content it cannot control. Coelho was released by police after a short detention on Wednesday as he agreed to appear in court at a later date.
“We will continue to campaign for free expression globally – not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people,” Coelho added in his statement.