Google's Brazil chief detained in YouTube case

By Juliana Barbassa

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 26 2012 4:46 p.m. MDT

In this Nov. 22, 2011 photo, Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho poses for a portrait in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Google Inc.'s head of operations in Brazil was detained by the country's federal police Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012 after the company failed to heed a judge's order to take down YouTube videos that the court ruled violate Brazilian electoral law. The detention came as another court ordered YouTube to remove clips of an anti-Islam film that has been blamed for deadly protests by Muslims around the globe, both joining a spate of court-ordered content-removal cases against Google's video-sharing website in Brazil.

Carol Carquejeiro, Agencia O Globo, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

RIO DE JANEIRO — Google Inc.'s head of operations in Brazil was detained by the country's federal police Wednesday after the company failed to heed a judge's order to take down YouTube videos that the court ruled violate Brazilian electoral law.

The detention came as another court ordered YouTube to remove clips of an anti-Islam film that has been blamed for deadly protests by Muslims around the globe, both joining a spate of court-ordered content-removal cases against Google's video-sharing website in Brazil.

The arrest of Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was announced in Sao Paulo. A press release issued by the federal police said he was not expected to remain in jail and should be released later in the day after signing a document promising to appear in court.

Brazil's strict electoral laws limit what critics can say on television, radio and the Internet about candidates for office. Ahead of municipal elections next month, Google has received repeated requests to remove Web videos that allegedly violate those restrictions.

A judge in Mato Grosso do Sul state ordered Coelho's arrest Tuesday because the company had not removed YouTube videos that make incendiary comments about an alleged paternity suit aimed at Alcides Bernal, who is running for mayor of the city of Campo Grande. That ruling also included a statewide, 24-hour suspension of Google and YouTube. It was not immediately clear if and how that aspect of the ruling might be carried out.

Google said Tuesday that it was appealing the decision. "Being a platform, Google is not responsible for the content posted on its site," the company said in an emailed statement from Sao Paulo.

A judge in the southern state of Parana earlier ordered Google to pay $500,000 for each day that it balked at fulfilling an order to remove other videos criticizing a candidate. In the northeastern state of Paraiba, a judge ordered the imprisonment of another Google executive in Brazil, also for not removing videos from YouTube attacking a mayoral candidate, but that order was overruled by a higher court.

Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which promotes digital freedom, said the rash of Brazilian cases was "disappointing, but not surprising" ahead of the country's nationwide municipal elections on Oct. 7 and Oct. 28.

"The Internet is global, but laws are made nation by nation," she said. "There is a struggle between nation states and their laws and the freedom of expression policies of companies that host content all over the globe."

In a separate case pending against Google, Sao Paulo-based judge Gilson Delgado Miranda gave the site 10 days to remove video clips from "Innocence of Muslims," which has angered many Muslims around the world by its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers as thugs. After the 10-day window, Google will face fines of $5,000 a day for every day the clips remain accessible in Brazil, according to the statement on the court's website.

The company did not respond to requests Wednesday for comment about the case.

The "Innocence of Muslims" ruling resulted from a lawsuit by a group representing Brazil's Muslim community, the National Union of Islamic Entities, which claimed the film violates the country's constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all faiths.

In a statement on the group's website, Mohamad al Bukai, the head of religious matters for the Sao Paulo-based organization, hailed the ruling.

"Freedom of expression must not be confused with giving disproportionate and irresponsible offense, which can provoke serious consequences for society," al Bukai said.

Dozens of people have been killed in violence linked to protests over "Innocence of Muslims," which portrays the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a child molester.

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