May 19, 2024

Bits Blog: Authorities Question Head of Google in Brazil Over Video

The authorities in Brazil questioned Google’s senior executive there on Wednesday over a YouTube video that criticized a local mayoral candidate, and a court ruled that YouTube must block the video.

A Brazilian judge had issued a warrant for the arrest of Fabio Coelho, Google’s country director in Brazil, because YouTube, which is owned by Google, had not yet blocked or removed the video. Authorities said it violated a local law against ads that “offend the dignity or decorum” of a candidate, according to Reuters.

YouTube had appealed Brazil’s request to remove the video, and the arrest warrant was issued while YouTube awaited a decision on the appeal. Late Wednesday, YouTube learned that a judge had denied the appeal and forced YouTube to block the video, Mr. Coelho said in a post on Google’s Brazil blog Thursday.

“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,” Mr. Coelho wrote.

Mr. Coelho was released after being questioned by the police.

The incident comes as Google and YouTube face intense scrutiny and pressure over an anti-Islam video on YouTube that has sparked deadly riots around the world. YouTube blocked the video in some countries and not in others, raising questions about the definition of free speech and who gets to control what people say on the Internet.

There have also been reports that Brazil is trying to block the anti-Islam video, though YouTube said it had not received a formal request.

YouTube’s policy is to review videos that are flagged as inappropriate by users or as unlawful by a government or court. YouTube generally only removes videos if they are illegal in a country in which it operates, or if they violate YouTube’s guidelines against things like hate speech and pornography.

YouTube receives many such requests, and the company says it pushes back as often as possible in favor of free speech, including in the Brazilian case.

“Despite all this, 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,” Mr. Coelho wrote.

He added that the YouTube user who posted one of the controversial videos had removed it and closed the account, “showing just what a chilling effect these episodes can have on free speech.”

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