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Brazilian Bloggers Claim Presidential Candidate is Trying to Censor His Critics on YouTube

Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounst to deal with negative Youtube videos. Image by flickr official Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Aécio Neves has filed suit against Twitter demanding it discloses information on 66 users; now bloggers claim he's using fake accounts to deal with negative YouTube videos. Image by official Flickr Aécio Neves account. CC BY 2.0

Ten days ago, web documentary “Helicoca – The 60 Million Reais Helicopter” was removed from YouTube thanks to a copyright claim by a person named “Jorge Scalvini”. Local netizens have begun to suspect that the video's removal was set in motion by presidential candidate Aécio Neves.

The documentary investigates one of the largest drug seizures by police in Brazil’s history, in which half a ton of cocaine was found in a helicopter belonging to the powerful Perrella family. The Perellas are key political allies of Aécio Neves, the Brazilian Social-Democratic Party (PSDB) presidential candidate and former governor of Minas Gerais, which borders both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The pilot and staff who helped maintain the helicopter were charged with the crime, while police rapidly dismissed the possibility of any involvement by the Perrella family. The strange absence of information about the Perrellas’ role in the incident motivated local journalists to further investigate the story.

Developed and commissioned via crowdfunding by Diário do Centro do Mundo, an independent, left-leaning news site, the documentary was directed by Joaquim de Carvalho, a seasoned journalist who has worked for major Brazilian news outlets such as O Estado de S. Paulo and TV Globo. 

Diário do Centro do Mundo representatives say that the Scalvini account, which requested that YouTube remove Helicoca, is a fake:

Nós procuramos saber quem é Scalvini. Seu email é zerobeta000@gmail.com. Enviamos uma mensagem nesse endereço. Não obtivemos resposta. Tudo indica que se trata de um perfil fake. Scalvini possui uma conta no Twitter, aberta em 2012, sem nenhuma postagem. Seu perfil no Facebook é vazio, com curtidas em páginas como as da “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na Cadeia” e “Chega de Corrupção”. Há também uma conta no YouTube com seu nome. A última movimentação foi há três meses.

We tried to find out who Scalvini is. His email is zerobeta000@gmail.com. We sent him a message to this address and received no reply. It seems to be a fake profile after all. Scalvini has a Twitter account, opened in 2012, with no tweets. His profile on Facebook is empty, with a few likes on pages like “TV Revolta”, “Mensaleiros na TV” e “Chega de Corrupção”. He has also an account on YouTube with his name. He last logged in three months ago.

In order to avoid copyright infringement suits, the general practice at Google (owner of YouTube) is to remove such videos. It is incumbent on the video's creator, and not the complainant, to prove that he or she has the right to present the video. Diário do Centro do Mundo has appealed the case with Google and has been told to expect an official reply within 10 days’ time.

By coincidence, journalist Ana Paula Freitas posted on Facebook that she came across another video removed by YouTube, also over a copyright claim made by a user named “George Scalvini”. The video is a famous, humorous meme entitled “What I want to say to my friends who will vote for Aécio Neves” and features a woman at a party shouting to her friend, who seems drunk, “I cannot help you, I am sorry!”

Freitas wrote:

O vídeo, como vocês podem ver, foi tirado do ar. Um tal de GEORGE SCALVINI requisitou direitos autorais. Desnecessário apontar a semelhança entre os nomes. Aparentemente, o jurídico do Aécio tem uma equipe especializada em tirar do ar não só os vídeos que contém acusações que possam prejudicá-lo politicamente, mas também brincadeiras como essa, que dentre o hall enorme de exemplos de humor ativista, é uma das mais bem-humoradas e inofensivas.

The video, as you can see, was taken down. Some George Scalvini guy claimed intellectual ownership of the video. It's needless to comment on the similarity between the two names. Apparently, Aécio's campaign has a team specialized on not only taking down videos with accusations that could harm his candidacy, but also little jokes like this, that among all the examples of activist humor is one the most good-natured and inoffensive.

Although the documentary contains some footage of Neves taken by TV news stations, and thus potentially vulnerable to copyright violation claims, the spoof video includes no content of this sort. What concerns netizens following the story is that both videos had their property rights challenged by the same person — who may not be a real person at all. The only discernible connection between the two videos is the mentioning of Aécio Neves..

Suspicions have also been fueled by Neves’ various past attempts to quiet criticism of his leadership on social media.

In late August, Neves filed a lawsuit against Twitter after the company refused to disclose information and IP addresses for 66 Twitter users. The former governor claimed the accounts were all fake profiles orchestrated by a specific group to disseminate lies and criticism about him and his campaign. Official documentation of the suit can be seen here.

Magazine Revista Fórum interviewed owners of a few of the accounts among the 66 named in the suit. Among them is famous film critic Pablo Villaça, founder of Cinema em Cena, the oldest movie website in Brazil. Villaça has publicly voiced his support for Neves’ rival, current president Dilma Rousseff. He told Revista Fórum about the accusations: 

Acho ótimo, cabe a ele provar que isso existe. Eu milito politicamente desde os 18 anos. Minha mãe combateu a ditadura, minha tia foi presa e torturada. E ainda insinua que sou pago para militar.

I think this is great, now he must prove [the paid network of defamers] actually exists. I have been a political activist since I was 18 years old. My mother fought against the dictatorship, my aunt went to jail and was tortured. And he insinuates I am paid to be an activist.

Another notorious case is of the 2008 documentary “Gagged in Brazil,” produced by filmmaker Daniel Florêncio for Current TV. Florêncio, who is from Minas Gerais, explores the relationship of his state's government with the press. A few months after its release on the UK and US, the video was taken down by Current TV. In an article written for Observatório da Imprensa, Florêncio explained what happened:

Na semana anterior, os executivos seniors do canal [Current TV] nos EUA receberam cartas com severas considerações e críticas sérias em relação ao filme. As cartas foram enviadas pelo PSDB de Minas Gerais. O PSDB afirmava que meu filme tinha caráter político-partidário, que não representava a realidade no estado e questionava minha conduta ética na produção do filme.

In the previous week, senior executives [of Current TV] in the US received letters with harsh considerations and serious criticism of the movie. Letters were sent by PSDB of Minas Gerais. PSDB said my film was of a “political-partisan” nature and didn't represent the reality in the state, besides questioning the ethics of my conduct during the production of the film.

According to Florêncio, during an internal investigation at Current TV he had to prove to his journalism director Andrew Fitzgerald every statement he used in the movie and that the accusations made by PSDB were false. A month later, Fitzgerald agreed to put the documentary back on the air. 

Meanwhile, PSDB Youth has created a counter-video, also narrated in English, rebuffing the accusations featured in “Gagged in Brazil”.

In sum, these incidents have left bloggers concerned that the recent video removals are more than just coincidence. And Neves’ past behaviors suggest there may be more to come.

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  • Moses Hill

    Now please tell the world about the scandal involving Petrobras and a lot of other related to the Party dos Trabalhadores. But what´s really worrying is that PT leaders are about to commit the worst crime ever seen in Brazil. They are killing the San Francisco River. This transposition thing´s been ignored by the media, but when investigated , it will show that mr Lula´s megalomania will cost
    the suffering of millions of ppl living in the northeast, worsening the historical drought!!

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