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Brazil: Judges can't tell YouTube from U2

The Superior Electoral Court (the acronym TSE in Portuguese) yesterday held a session to conclude the resolution regulating the use of the Internet in the 2008 local elections campaign later this year. Among the highly criticized resolutions was Article 4 [pt], which states the following:

Art. 4º. É vedada, desde 48 horas antes até 24 horas depois da eleição, a veiculação de qualquer propaganda política na Internet, no rádio ou na televisão – incluídos, entre outros, as rádios comunitárias e os canais de televisão que operam em UHF, VHF e por assinatura –, e, ainda, a realização de comícios ou reuniões públicas.

Art 4. Broadcasting of any political propaganda on the Internet, radio or television – including, among others, community radio stations and television channels operating in UHF, VHF and by subscription – and, besides, rallies or public meetings are prohibited, from 48 hours before through 24 hours after the election.

This leads to the interpretation that blog posts and pieces of news written way before the elections would be banned on the day, according to judge-blogger Jorge Alberto Araujo [pt], who interprets the resolution as the same as trying to forbid people from reading yesterday's papers on the election day:

Impedir que matérias de conteúdo político sejam veiculadas na Internet, no dia da eleição, dá a impressão que o TSE, futuramente, pode admitir que haja propaganda política obrigatória na Web, algo do tipo: “Interrompemos a programação normal (a leitura deste blog, por exemplo) para exibir a propaganda obrigatória nos termos da Lei…” absurdo, não? Eu e você achamos. Parece que o TSE, não.

Preventing political content to circulate on the Internet, on the election day, gives the impression that the TSE, in future, could admit that there will be free political advertising on the Web, something like: “we interrupt the normal schedule (reading of this blog, for example) to broadcast the free political advertising program under the Law…” It is absurd, no? You and I believe so. It seems that the TSE, don't.


Lawyer Adauto de Andrade [pt] publishes the picture above and gives his two cents:

Internet não é televisão. Internet não é rádio. Você “vai” à Internet, ela não “vem” até você. Será que o TSE não consegue dar uma dentro?

Internet is not television. Internet is not radio. You “go” to the Internet, it doesn't “come” to you. Is it possible that the TSE can't get anything right?

Another Brazilian blogger and Judge George Marmelstein [pt] watched the TSE session in person. Below is a summary of his impressions:

Na medida em que eu ia vendo as argumentações apresentadas, ficava cada vez mais surpreso ante o despreparo dos ministros para entenderem o que é a internet. Parecia – e essa impressão foi muito forte – que eles não sabiam do que estavam falando. Para se ter uma idéia, Youtube virou U2.

As I heard the arguments being presented, I was increasingly surprised in face of the ministers’ lack of knowledge to understand what the Internet is. It seemed – and this impression was very strong – that they did not know what they were talking about. To get an idea, Youtube was turned into U2.

No entanto, merece destaque o posicionamento do Min. Carlos Ayres Brito nesse assunto. Ele disse algo que eu já defendi: em matéria de liberdade de expressão, o Judiciário não deveria tentar regulamentar a internet sem saber do que se trata. Querer igualar a internet com as demais mídias é um grave equívoco. A internet, ao contrário da imprensa tradicional, não tem dona e a informação é livre e gratuita.

However, it is worth noting Minister Carlos Ayres Brito's position n this matter. He said something I have advocated: when it comes to freedom of expression, the judiciary should not try to regulate the Internet without knowing what it is. Trying to make the Internet equal to other media is a serious mistake. The Internet, unlike traditional media, has no owner and the information is free and gratis.

No final das contas, a solução foi uma amostra clara de que eles não sabiam direito o que estavam decidindo naquele momento. Ficou decidido que à medida em que os problemas surgissem, a solução seria dada caso a caso. Tanto melhor para os advogados e tanto pior para os eleitores, que ficam com uma espada de Dâmocles em suas cabeças sem saber direito o que podem e o que não podem fazer.

In the end, the decision was a clear sample that they did not know what they were deciding right then. It was decided that to the extent that problems arise, they would be dealt with, case by case. This is great for lawyers and too bad for voters, who are left with a Sword of Damocles hanging over their heads without knowing what they can and can not do.

Meanwhile, bewilderment reigns, with mismatched information and misunderstandings being shared among blogs, newspapers and other media outlets – everyone seems still to be confused.

Global Voices Online has been following this discussion closely.

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