Digital Democracy

Digitalization and the Public Sphere in Brazil

Fake News and the Courts – Can Legal Decisions Create Equal Conditions?

Discussion About Fake News and Justice Closes the Webinar Series Conducted by FGV DAPP

The webinar series Acting Against Fake News on Social Media gathered in its third day figures who are references in the fight against disinformation in order to think how strategic suing can be. The debate conducted on the September 10th closed out the event that is part of the project Digitalization and Democracy in Brazil, developed by the Department of Public Policy Analysis of Fundação Getulio Vargas (FGV DAPP), supported by the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany. The participants offered distinct perspectives on how they perceive the complex relationship between freedom of speech and protection of individual liberties, both in Brazil and Germany.

The current vice-president of the European Parliament, Katarina Barley, presented the European experience in the main conference. The theme of the day, Fake News the Courts – Judicial Decisions Can Create Equal Dispute Conditions?, was moderated by the journalist Iago Bolivar. The former Minister of Justice in Germany, Barley organized her speech around the measures against disinformation and the hate speech in the judicial environment. Among them is the approval, in 2017, of a law (Enforcement Act) that represses and restrains, in German territory, the dissemination of offensive, defamatory, slanderous, and prejudiced speech. The law holds accountable the platforms for the identification and extinction of harmful content.

Barley also pointed out in her participation the existence of two great challenges: The first one is guaranteeing the protection of the individual rights without losing sight of the preservation of freedom of speech; the second one is developing mechanisms that require the identification of fake news, since that is more difficult in regards to disinformation than to hate speech. The table that followed her speech received a journalist from Folha de São Paulo, Patrícia Campos Mello, the author of the book Máquina de ódio (Hate Machine), published in this year by Companhia das Letras. The reporter reiterated the same inquietudes, in the Brazilian context, by exposing the difficulty of leaving the binarism that opposes the attempts of interdiction of the harmful practices to the risk of framing mainly the common citizen who, in her opinion, actually should have the right to express his or her opinions.

The series of debates made clear that the deadlocks and dichotomies identified in the measures of disinformation fighting and production of hate speech has been demanding one articulated measure that includes different social actors. Among them are the non-governmental organizations, involved in the treatment of information, and the academy, acting in the development of research. In the table of the third day of the event, Michael Meyer, executive director of Democracy Reporting International, argued that the accountability of the platforms entails the problematization of the content of disinformation, insofar as they have ways of disarticulate it. From the point of view of the user, he believes that a digital education will not have efficacy in polarized environments, but it will be important for individuals who do not polarize themselves.

In the same table, Pedro Abramovay, Latin American director of Open Society Foundations, drew attention to the need of rethinking the very own social institutions whose values are reconfigured in the digital environment. He reminded how traditional and highly credible press vehicles complexified the access to articles and data with deepened analysis of the national reality, limiting them, for example, to subscribers, whereas services such as WhatsApp strongly promote the decentralization of the distribution of information. In the lawyer’s opinion, the platform is an emblematic environment to the understanding of the phenomenon of disinformation in the Brazilian context, and it needs to be investigated more thoroughly.



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