Facebook, Twitter deleted accounts of Bolsonaro supporters after court order

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Facebook Inc. (FB.O) And Twitter Inc. (TWTR.N) Removed the accounts of several high-profile supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro following a Supreme Court order, a move that has seen social media titans navigating some of the world’s largest courts.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro gestured at Elvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, on July 24, 2020, before a ceremony to lower the national flag for the night amid an outbreak of coronovirus disease (COVID-19). REUTERS / Adriano Machado

Justice Alexandre de Mores on Friday ordered the removal of 16 Twitter accounts and 12 Facebook accounts, a decision linked to ongoing investigations into alleged proliferation of devolution by supporters of right-wing Bolsonaro.

Among the objectives of the “fake news” investigation, as it is known in Brazil, is to find out if misinformation and threats against Supreme Court officials are being funded illegally.

The owners of the suspended accounts include Roberto Jefferson, a former congressman and conservative PTB party president, as well as businessman Luciano Hang, Edgar Corona and Oscar Fakhoury, and activist Sarah Jiromini, widely known as Sarah Winter.

Moras ordered blocked accounts in a separate ruling in May, although the accounts were not removed at that time.

Moras’ Friday order stated that the accounts should be withheld from “being used as a means to conduct potentially criminal conduct”.

Facebook said in a statement that it “respects the judiciary and follows legitimate legal orders.” “Twitter acted strictly to comply with the legal order related to the Supreme Court investigation,” Twitter said in a statement.

Blocked Twitter itself accounts on pages where they would have accounts, with them suspended on Friday evening “in response to a legal order”.

The reaction among Brazilian conservatives was swift.

The PTB party said in a statement that it was surprised by “yet another arbitrary measure” ordered by Mora, which “(Jefferson’s) exercise hinders the right to freedom of expression and opinion on social media.”

Activist Winter said she would complain about “serious crimes against free speech from international human rights organizations”.

Although Bolsonaro did not immediately address the removal of the accounts, he has previously spoken out against the inquiry, calling it a serious threat to free speech.

Reporting by Ricardo Britto and Lysandra Paraguasu; Writing by Gram Slater; Editing by Leslie Adler

Our standard:Thomson Reuters Trust Theory.


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