Brazil Senate leader kills Bolsonaro decree criticized by tech firms

FILE PHOTO: Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro looks on during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil September 14, 2021. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) -Brazilian Senate leader Rodrigo Pacheco said on Tuesday he would not consider President Jair Bolsonaro's decree limiting social networks' power to remove content, killing a measure that had met with widespread opposition from tech giants.

Pacheco said Bolsonaro's temporary measure, which required congressional approval to become law, did not comply with regulatory requirements and introduced "considerable legal uncertainty."

Brazil's federal judiciary, which is probing fake news in the country, has been trying to weed out online outfits that critics accuse of spreading misinformation, forcing major tech players such as Google's YouTube to act.

Bolsonaro signed the decree changing internet regulations to combat "arbitrary removal" of accounts, profiles and content ahead of a major political rally last week.

The decree aimed to protect "freedom of speech," the president's office said at the time. But it generated significant pushback in Brazil, with Google, Facebook and Twitter all coming out against the measure.

The decision is another setback for Bolsonaro, who is down in the polls after overseeing the world's second deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. He is grappling with rising inflation and a weak economy ahead of a 2022 presidential election whose integrity he has questioned.

But he still retains a devoted base of supporters, and can rely on the full-throated backing of a broad constellation of online outfits.

Last month, YouTube suspended payments to content producers from 14 channels that the country's federal electoral court had accused of spreading fake news about next year's election.

Just a few days earlier, the inspector general of electoral justice ordered YouTube, Twitch.TV, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to suspend payments to people and pages that were spreading disinformation about the Brazilian electoral system.

Bolsonaro's own content has also been targeted. In July, YouTube said it had removed videos from Bolsonaro's channel for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus outbreak. Twitter and Facebook took down videos of Bolsonaro last year for breaching their terms of use after he made unfounded claims about the pandemic.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina MarcelloWriting by Gabriel Stargardter Editing by Brad Haynes, Leslie Adler and Sonya Hepinstall)

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