A Brazilian bill designed to contain the spread of mis- and disinformation narrowly failed an “accelerated pathway” vote Wednesday in the lower house of Congress, one of two representative voting bodies in Brazil’s government. The future of PL 2630 — also known as the “Fake News” bill — is now up in the air.
Despite the bill’s aim to contain the spread of mis- and disinformation, it faces predictable resistance from tech companies and, perhaps more surprisingly, independent fact-checking organizations in the region, which say they are concerned with the bill’s potential impact.
Some of the bill’s mandates include:
- Mass text-messaging would be prohibited for political purposes.
- Any foreign company would be required to have legal representation in Brazil.
- Tech companies would be required to publish reports for each instance of content demonetization and removal.
- Politicians would no longer be able to earn Brazilian Real for their posts to social media.
- YouTube would be required to pay all news operations for content on its platform.
Executives at YouTube have lamented that what “journalism” means isn’t clearly defined in the bill, and that channels would have to be notified when content gets demoted (and for what reason) — a gargantuan task given the scale of YouTube’s platform. Certain legislators in Brazil would also no longer be bound to YouTube’s service rules.
“Under this bill, members of Brazil’s legislative branch wouldn’t have to follow our Terms of Service or Community Guidelines. And every time our system demotes content for any reason, we’d have to inform similar channels, burying creators with countless notifications,” the chief business officer of YouTube, Robert Kyncl, wrote in a Twitter thread.
The resistance toward the bill is shared by local fact-checking organizations.
“I believe that the section about payment for journalistic content — as it is — could be very harmful not only to fact checkers, but to journalism as a whole,” said Bernardo Barbosa, assistant editor of UOL Confere, a verified signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network,“because it does not define clearly what is journalistic content or what is a journalism company. We know by now that many outlets that spread disinformation try to look like a legitimate journalistic operation.”
Tai Nalon, co-founder and executive director of Aos Fatos, said, “It is hard to assess what is professional journalism, and who should be able to receive such subsidies from the platforms. I think that fact-checkers could also be vulnerable to judicial abuse, because some congressmen could be angry that we are publishing something says what they’re sharing is false or misleading. It makes us vulnerable.”
Though Nalon agreed with YouTube’s general sentiment that the law could lead to additional funding for false information disseminators, she also said that some big tech companies are already sponsoring purveyors of misinformation via ad revenue.
Since the accelerated voting pathway for PL 2630/2020 was denied, the question remains when the vote will happen.
- Fact Check: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did not propose a bill that would introduce a 10% tax for white people (English)
- A widely circulated meme purports that AOC is advocating for a 10% tax on white people. Reuters found no evidence of the claim.
- Fact check: Video shows Russian music video, not dead Ukrainian smoking (English)
- The fact check demonstrates a concerning trend in mis- and disinformation: repurposing photos or videos of unrelated content and fabricating new, fake backstories.
- Fact check: Fake World Economic Forum tweet about meat, property spreads online (English)
- It’s another WEF conspiracy theory. This one claims that founder Klaus Schwab suggested that eating meat and property ownership will soon be things of the past.
- Suplantan al director del CNIC, Valentín Fuster, para estafar con medicamentos fraudulentos (Spanish)
- A detailed piece on the impersonation of several prestigious physicians as a means of promoting false stories on health issues. One of them is Valentín Fuster, a well-known cardiologist practicing in the United States.
From the news:
- Obama: I Underestimated the Threat of Disinformation: At a conversation hosted by The Atlantic and the University of Chicago, former President Barack Obama sits down with The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg to discuss the problem of disinformation. Jacob Stern, The Atlantic
- Russian-backed hackers spreading disinformation on Facebook: A Belarus-affiliated hacking group called Ghostwriter is targeting Ukrainian telecom, military and energy companies. On the day of the invasion, it posted videos from legitimate Ukrainian military officers’ accounts falsely stating that Ukrainians were fleeing and surrendering. Ines Kagubare, The Hill
- Use of social media for news doesn’t seem to increase false political beliefs among Mexicans, one study finds: In a study of over 1,750 Mexican respondents, researchers found that those who frequently use social media were no more likely to believe misinformation. Nieman Lab, Hanaa’ Tameez
- Latino-targeted misinformation and the power of corrections: In a paper conditionally accepted to The Journal of Politics, researchers find that fact checks are indeed effective at reducing the effects of misinformation on factual beliefs. Yamil Velez, Journal of Politics
From/for the community:
- Our Spread the Facts grant program will distribute $800,000 to distinguished IFCN-verified signatories working to curb the spread of misinformation on WhatsApp.
- We’re proud to announce our recipients for the Climate Misinformation Grant Program. IFCN will grant $800,000 to 10 fact-checking organizations across the globe to help curb misinformation about the climate. Meet our recipients.
- Experienced fact-checking organizations from around the world were granted $300,000 to develop detailed curriculums for mentee organizations.
- IFCN received $800,000 from the Google News Initiative.
Events and training
- Applications for mentees for the Global Mentorship Program are now open. Six mentor organizations will mentor up to five organizations in a variety of topics, including how to use innovative formats to deliver fact-checks, video storytelling, diversify income sources and more. All mentees who complete the mentorship program will receive $5,000. The deadline to apply for the program is April 22.
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