Facebook blocks Brazil president's allies after court order

It's appealing the decision over freedom of speech.

Andre Borges/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Facebook has been eager to fight misinformation on its platform, but it’s concerned Brazil might have taken things a step too far. BBC News reports that Facebook has blocked the accounts of a dozen allies of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro after the country’s Supreme Court ordered them blocked worldwide in May. The group, which includes business mogul Luciano Hang and political party leader Roberto Jefferson, was accused of spreading fake news about judges.

The social network also paid a fine of 1.92 million reais (about $368,000) for initially refusing to obey the order, and faced additional penalties of 100,000 reais (slightly over $19,000) per day. In a statement, it said it objected as the order hurt free expression and conflicted with “laws and jurisdictions worldwide.” Facebook only gave in after an employee in Brazil faced the “threat of criminal liability,” according to the statement.

Facebook is appealing the decision with the Supreme Court. Twitter had also been ordered to block 16 accounts, although it’s not certain if that company also faced a fine.

This is far from the only run-in between Facebook and Brazil. The country has temporarily shut down WhatsApp in the past for not blocking or turning over messages. The newest case is unusual, however — Facebook was asked to block major personalities, something it does only rarely and usually for promoting hate speech and violence. The appeal outcome could help dictate Brazil’s influence on Facebook going forward, even for users outside of the country.