The proliferation of false news has gained repercussion in Brazil. With the closure of the 2018 Elections, to be held on October 7, government efforts have been intensified to avoid the prominence of so-called ” fake news “”. The Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) has already signed a compromise agreement with 28 political parties in the country that “undertake to maintain the environment of informational hygiene, in order to disapprove any practice or expedient regarding the use of false content in the next elections.” According to the document, the TSE said that “in Western democracies consolidated the manipulation of false news, combined with the impetus for robots and automated profiles, as well as the targeting of messages to profiles of individuals previously identified.”
Last month, the Court signed memoranda with media companies such as Facebook and Google to “prevent and combat the misinformation generated by third parties, as well as support the Court in projects to promote digital education, and in initiatives to promote journalism Quality”. Antônio Augusto Mayer , an expert on electoral law , highlights the potential for leading the false news in the Brazilian election. “Elections are indispensable, but people are less and less willing to talk about politics and candidacies. They know that the election that runs in the electoral propaganda is not the one that is in their day to day. This is why the Fake News creates excessive difficulties. After all, the majority of the population has precarious knowledge about the country as a whole, “points out Mayer.
In parallel, Senate Bill 473/2017, which proposes to amend the Penal Code (Decree-Law No. 2848, of December 7, 1940) , is processed in the Federal Senate to criminalize the dissemination of false news . If approved, the amendment will include in the Penal Code Article 287-A, which provides “detention, from six months to two years and fine, for those who disclose news that it knows to be false and that can distort, alter or corrupt the truth about information related to health, public safety, the national economy, the electoral process or that affect the public interest relevantly.”
According to the Senate Bill, which awaits the appointment of rapporteur with the Commission on Constitution, Justice and Citizenship (CCJ), punishment may also include imprisonment, from one to three years, if the disclosure is made through the internet. If it is aimed at obtaining benefits, there is a forecast of an increase of the penalty by up to two thirds. Currently, the Penal Code already provides for the definition of “crimes against honor”, framed as slander, defamation, slander, among others.
Mayer, who is also a professor of Electoral Law at the Escola Verbo Jurídico and author of the book Electoral Campaign: Theory and Practice, emphasizes that, despite the complexity of the topic, “it is an attempt by the legislator to repress conduct, in most harmful and harmful through the establishment of a modern criminal type. At this point, I only see the need to improve the PLS in relation to some criminal conduct.
In December 2017, the Consultative Council on Internet and Elections was created by Ordinance 949/2017 , which has, among other objectives, “to develop research and studies on electoral rules and the influence of the Internet on elections, especially the risk of Fake News and the use of robots in the dissemination of information. ” Working with the Office of the President of the Court, the Council is composed of 11 members representing the Electoral Justice, the Federal Government, the Brazilian Army and civil society.
Concern over the proliferation of Fake News has not been out of the question because of its disaggregating power. In the international sphere, especially in 2016, there was a proliferation of false news that interfered in the outcome of the United States presidential elections and also in the plebiscite on the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union (Brexit).
In 2017, United Nations agencies launched the Joint Statement on Freedom of Expression and False News (Fake News), Disinformation and Propaganda, which marks one of the great dilemmas of the information society today: dealing with false news, which diminishes the credibility of the press and interfere with the right to information and, at the same time, prevent them from being used as an argument for the promotion of censorship.