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Fake news fear as Bolsonaro bids to limit social media content removal

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By Euronews with AFP
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves during a ceremony marking Soldier Day at Army headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro waves during a ceremony marking Soldier Day at Army headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Eraldo Peres
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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro issued a measure that would restrict social media companies from removing content in a move that critics say could influence the fight against disinformation.

The decree aims to combat "arbitrary and unreasonable removal of accounts, profiles and content by social network providers", a government press release said.

It continued that the measure, which needs to be approved by Congress, would protect "users' rights to freedom of expression".

The far-right president and his allies have often had content removed during the pandemic for spreading false information.

The new measure says tech companies would need a "just cause" for removing social media content, a press release said, without providing further detail.

It also said social media providers would be required to notify users, identify the measure adopted and explain the decision for content removal as well as the procedure for contesting it, Brazil's government said.

"This provisional measure significantly limits the ability to restrict abuse on our platforms," ​​a spokesperson for Facebook told AFP.

Alessandro Molon, an opposition politician and rapporteur of Brazil's bill of rights for the internet, said the presidential decree would hinder "the fight against fake news and hate speech".

"What (Bolsonaro) wants is to prevent the disinformation and hate speech he and his supporters spread from continuing to be removed by platforms," Molon said in a tweet.

Bolsonaro signed the decree on the eve of Brazil's national holiday as he calls on supporters to demonstrate in cities.

He is currently faring badly in polls behind former left-wing president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva ahead of the country's 2022 election.