Facebook and Twitter remove accounts of Bolsonaro supporters

Brazil President

Facebook and Twitter took down the accounts of several high-profile supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro following a Supreme Court order, a move that underlines the tricky juggling act the big tech are navigating across the world.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the removal of the 16 Twitter accounts and 12 Facebook accounts, a decision that is tied to an ongoing probe into the alleged dissemination of disinformation by supporters of President Bolsonaro.

FAKE NEWS INVESTIGATION

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

Among the owners of the suspended accounts is Roberto Jefferson, a former congressman and president of the conservative PTB party, as well as businessmen Luciano Hang, Edgar Corona and Oscar Fakhoury, and activist Sara Giromini, who is also known as Sarah Winter.

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Justice Moraes had ordered the accounts blocked in a separate ruling back in May, though the accounts were not removed at the time.

Friday’s order, Justice Moraes said, was meant to stop the accounts from “being used as a means of committing possible criminal conduct.”

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

The blocked Twitter accounts themselves, on the pages where their accounts would be, said yesterday that they were suspended “in response to a legal order.”

The reaction among Brazil’s conservatives was appropriately swift and predictable. The PTB party said  that it was surprised by “yet another arbitrary measure” ordered by Moraes, which “impedes the exercise (of Jefferson’s) right to liberty of expression and opinion on social media.”

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Via our content partners at Reuters. Reporting by Ricardo Brito and Lisandra Paraguassu. Writing by Gram Slattery; Editing by Leslie Adler.

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