Google and Facebook Fined Under Brazil’s Internet Law
It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the wrong picture posted on the Internet could cost thousands. The social media site Facebook and the Internet search company Google were each fined about $15,500 for failing to either remove or block photos and videos depicting the dead body of Brazilian musician Cristiano Araujo. The case highlights the legal battle between the right of Internet-based services to distribute information and the use of Brazil’s new Internet law to control what can and cannot be disseminated.
According to The Guardian, the court’s fine was imposed after a judge ruled that Google and Facebook had acted in “bad faith” by not removing the photos and videos and by ignoring the judge’s earlier decision that said the posting of the images was “extremely disrespectful to the family’s feeling of sorrow.” Brazil’s Marco Civil law governs Internet matters. Its scope includes setting the guidelines for removing inappropriate photographs from the Internet, if so ordered by a court.
In a statement from Google, the company acknowledged the Internet law. However, in taking down the photographs and videos, the company did not reference the law. Instead, Google referenced its own policies, explaining that it had removed videos that were “flagged by users due to YouTube’s policies regarding offensive content.”
While Google and Facebook have had little to say publicly about the judge’s ruling, Google has appealed the decision.
The Internet developed as a medium governed by few, if any, rules. While Brazil’s Internet law brings a framework to support both privacy and security, the Araujo images and videos flagged as inappropriate on both Google and Facebook bring to light potential shortcomings in the law. The social media companies and search engine companies that dominate the Internet are mainly foreign companies with headquarters outside of Brazil. This can make it difficult to enforce local judgments. In addition, for companies like Google and Facebook that have revenues in the billions of dollars, a $15,500 fine is just the cost of doing business.