Skip to main content

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro gestures while meeting supporters during a ceremony of lowering the national flag for the night, amid the coronavirus outbreak, at the Alvorada Palace in Brasilia, Brazil, July 24, 2020.

ADRIANO MACHADO/Reuters

Facebook Inc and Twitter Inc 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 territory the social media titans are navigating in some of the world’s largest jurisdictions.

Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the removal of 16 Twitter accounts and 12 Facebook accounts on Friday, a decision tied to an ongoing probe into the alleged dissemination of disinformation by supporters of the right-wing Bolsonaro.

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.

Story continues below advertisement

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, widely known as Sarah Winter.

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

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

Facebook said in a statement that it “respects the judiciary and complies with valid legal orders.” Twitter 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 Friday evening they were suspended “in response to a legal order.”

The reaction among Brazil’s conservatives was swift.

The PTB party said in a statement 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.”

Story continues below advertisement

Winter, the activist, said she would complain to “international human rights organizations about the serious offence against free speech.”

While Bolsonaro did not immediately address the removal of the accounts, he has previously spoken against the inquiry, calling it a grave threat to free speech.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies