Telegram app icon on smartphone screen. Photo by Ivan Radic

Why I support the ‘Fake News Bill:’ A Brazilian’s perspective on online regulation and responsibility

3 mins read

I have used Telegram for about seven years now. I still have an account on this messaging app, even though it has become a spoilage of far-right extremists, conspiracy theorists and disinformation peddlers in Brazil.

I remained there because the service was good, I had friends there, and it was good enough for me to use. I never cared for anecdotal speeches about Telegram being a last beacon of free speech. I don’t trust it’s founder, Pavel Durov, a Russian exile who claims to champion freedom and privacy while ignoring court orders and enabling hate speech,  and I do not believe he cares about actual freedom and the common good. I don’t trust its encryption, its bots or its channels.

But I do care about Brazil. I care about its democracy, its institutions, and its people. And that’s why I support Bill 2630, also known as the “fake news bill,” which aims to regulate online platforms and protect users from misinformation and abuse.

The bill, which has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the lower house of Congress, is not perfect. It has flaws that need to be fixed. It has been criticized by some who fear it could harm freedom of expression and privacy. It has been opposed by tech companies the likes of Google and Facebook, who argue it could stifle innovation and competition.

But it is also a necessary and urgent response to a grave threat that Brazil faces now, and that the rest of the civilized world shall face too: the spread of online disinformation and hate speech that undermines democracy and public order.

We have seen the devastating effects of this phenomenon in recent years. We have seen how President Jair Bolsonaro and his allies have used social media to spread lies about COVID-19, the electoral system, their political opponents and the Supreme Court. We have seen how they have incited violence and hatred against social minorities, journalists, activists and anyone who dared to disagree with them. We have seen how they have mobilized their online supporters to storm government buildings in a failed attempt to overturn Bolsonaro’s election defeat to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in 2022 in a pathetic display of coup d’Crotte.

We have also seen how some social media platforms have failed to act against this menace or have acted too late or too little. We have seen how they have allowed Brexiteers, MAGAs and Bolsonaro and his cronies to violate their own terms of service and community guidelines with impunity. We have seen how they have resisted or ignored court orders to remove illegal or harmful content or to provide data on users involved in criminal activities.

And we have seen how Telegram has become the most permissive and problematic platform of all. Unlike Google and “Meta”, which have representatives in Brazil and have established partnerships with Brazilian authorities to combat online disinformation, Telegram has no presence or accountability in the country. It has refused to cooperate with judicial and police authorities in several cases, such as when it was asked to provide data on neo-Nazi groups known to be fuelling school violence or to suspend the account of blogger Allan dos Santos, a prominent Bolsonaro supporter who is under investigation for spreading disinformation.

Telegram has also launched a campaign against Bill 2630, calling it an “attack on democracy” and a threat to free speech. It has sent messages to its users warning them about the bill and urging them to oppose it. It has claimed that the bill will increase surveillance, reduce privacy and limit access to information.

using telegram app in mobile phone
Photo by Viralyft on

But these claims are false and misleading. The bill does not give the government censorship powers without prior judicial oversight. It does not require users to provide their real identities or personal data. It does not prevent users from accessing any information they want.

What the bill does is to establish some basic rules and responsibilities for online platforms and users. It requires platforms to verify users’ identities using anonymized tokens that protect their privacy. It requires platforms to store users’ data for three months in case they are needed for legal purposes. It requires platforms to remove illegal or harmful content within 24 hours of notification by a court or an independent body. It imposes fines and sanctions for platforms that fail to comply with these rules.

These are reasonable and proportionate measures that are consistent with international standards and best practices. One could even make the case they aren’t even severe enough. They are not meant to stifle free speech or innovation, but to protect them from abuse and manipulation. They are not meant to favor or harm any political party or ideology, but to ensure a fair and transparent online environment for all.

That’s why I support Bill 2630. Not because I want to “punish” Telegram or any other platform. But because I want to defend my country and its people from those who want to destroy them with lies and hatred. I can’t in good faith leave the fate of humanity in the hands of borderless corporations the size of countries.

I choose to take back control, and so should you.

Erika Atayde

(she/her, they/them) ADHD, Sephardic Travesti
Writer and editor of Comic Books, audio-editor and director of podcasts and audiodramas, and independent journalist between countries. Beyond the Daily Planet you can find me ArcbeatlePress, "Aquele Outro Podcast Sobre Quadrinhos" and "Muralha da Fonte".

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