Brazil’s General Secretary of the Superior Electoral Court Luciano Felicio Fuck is calling for the South American country to become the first in the world to enact legislation against fake news.
“It’s a new subject in all major democracies and we are trying to anticipate it,” he said, according to a report by Revista Forum.
His comments, made during a meeting this week with government and TSE officials, as well as intelligence agencies aiming to combat fake news during this year’s electoral period, come amid ample public debate concerning the issue.
The working group intends to invite Facebook and Google to upcoming meetings that will take place every 15 days during the electoral period, according to Revista Forum. It’s their hope that the tech giants will assist the government in combating fake news.
Eugenio Ricas, director of the Federal Police organized-crime department, has said that legislation to prevent fake news is a priority for his crew. He insists that fake news be clearly defined and calls for stronger punishment for those caught producing false reporting.
Journalists, activists and researchers, however, believe that the government, tasking itself with combating fake news without any oversight, is creating a dangerous window that could result in a loss of freedom of expression and independent reporting.
“The idea is to restrict freedom of expression of alternative media during this year’s election,” said Renata Mielli, coordinator at the National Forum for Democratization of Communication (FNDC).
She went on to say that the formation of groups by the Federal Police to discuss ways to curb false reporting risks further undermining democracy in Brazil.
Cyberactivist Sergio Amadeus, meanwhile, is warning that such laws would impact “social movements” more than the mainstream, corporate media with what he calls its “long trajectory of manipulations, lies and omissions.”
A recent survey by weekly news magazine Veja revealed that former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has been the greatest target of fake political news published on Facebook in Brazil.
Brazil’s attempts to empower the government to combat fake news follow French President Emmanuel Macron declaring 2018 the year he will take fake news to task, pushing for a law to combat the issue by the year’s end.