• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
Brazilian police briefly detained a top Google executive in the country as a judge ruled the company failed to censor a video on YouTube in compliance with Brazilian election law (BBC, Estadao). Google claims that it has limited control over the content uploaded to its websites and should not be held liable for violations by its users of local election law.
According to the AP, the ruling also included a 24 hour suspension of Google and YouTube in Brazil. It will be interesting to learn in and how the Brazilian government hopes to comply with that ruling.
Unlike certain other countries in Latin America where an arrest like this would be an intimidation effort directed by the president, this case really was a judicial order by a judge who is relatively independent of the Brazilian government. That doesn't make the case any less problematic, but it does mean the solutions are more legal and bureaucratic and less driven by the specific people or party in power.
Brazil's election laws are rather ridiculous, creating an environment of censorship that protects politicians while attacking journalists and content creators online. The laws need to be reformed.
This arrest should serve as a warning to companies trying to base their technology startup inside of Brazil. This arrest shows that any company building platforms for user-generated content must recognize that it may be liable under Brazilian election law for the content created by its users. While Google has the money and lawyers to protect their own executives, most startups do not.