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Musk’s attack exposes the need for regulation of digital platforms

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Elon Musk ’s demonstrations threatening not to follow court orders show a lack of respect for our democracy, threaten our sovereignty and show the need to move forward in regulating platforms, the writer says. – Picture: Michael M Santiago / Getty Images / AFP

By Helena Martins

Brazil is under attack. Elon Musk ’s demonstrations threatening not to follow court orders show a lack of respect for our democracy, threaten our sovereignty and show the need to move forward in regulating platforms , with the approval of Bill (PL) 2630. Compliance with court decisions is an obligation for individuals and companies, and a possible violation has no legal protection. It is also not justified because the company is headquartered in another country, especially considering that it has representation in Brazil.

In the European Union, for example, a broad set of rules on platforms was approved and none came out of the countries that adopted the legislation. Musk himself recognises national sovereignty in the case of India, where, possibly out of affinity with that country’s far-right government, he has committed to following the established rules. In Brazil, the threat of failing to comply with court decisions, accompanied by the discourse of delegitimising the 2022 elections, is characterised as a movement by the owner of an attack on popular sovereignty deposited at the ballot box.

Musk also owns Starlink , which is involved in plans to connect schools. To what extent could he use Starlink to affect Brazilian politics or even circumvent court decisions? It is important to highlight that, although X is the protagonist in the current controversy, it is not the only platform that is driven by its own interests and affinities with the right. Facebook and Telegram have also been questioned for their permissive behaviour or even promoting disinformation . This entire picture shows that we need to develop sovereign national platforms, especially in the case of structural services, which guarantee access to diverse applications.

Diracom understands that the political debate is about sovereignty. The idea of freedom of expression has been used by the right, but freedom should not be confused with crimes. If a court decision is questioned, the company can appeal, but not fail to comply, as it operates in a territory governed by its own laws, not the company’s laws.

Contrary to what corporations advocate, it is necessary to move forward in regulating platforms. We defend the approval of PL 2630, which can establish clear rules, a participatory and democratic structure of supervisory and regulatory bodies and sanctions that guide the actions of the Judiciary. Regulation is a fundamental first step and must be complemented by policies that encourage the existence of other platforms.

Regulation can also eliminate legal problems. The Federal Supreme Court (STF), in the absence of a definition by the Legislature on the regulation of platforms, has advanced the place of the legislator through its acts. Recently, decisions by the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) on elections established measures that modify what is defined in the main law on the internet in Brazil, the Marco Civil da Internet. This is not the ideal path. The space for formulating conduct is the Legislature. It is up to the Judiciary to monitor compliance. Therefore, once again, it is essential that Brazil advances in the debate on PL 2630.

The project’s central axis is transparency. It provides, among other measures, on information that must be presented by platforms and the storage of this information. It also deals with access by researchers, which Musk has recently made impossible, in fact. The information, according to the project text, must be presented in reports and evaluated by a competent body, a much more transparent and democratic process.

We can move forward to improve the project, given the current situation. A controversial point is how platforms are held accountable. We consider it pertinent to update the Marco Civil da Internet so that platforms are held responsible in certain cases, especially when they receive money and manage the circulation of content, in the process called monetisation.

But we do not consider it appropriate to demand a “duty of care” from platforms. What we are seeing just shows, once again, that we need a regulatory body to monitor operations, receive complaints, and propose measures to contain criminal speech. It is a public body, with social participation, which must guarantee the exercise of rights and duties on the network.

Helena Martins is a member of Diracom, journalist and professor at the Federal University of Ceará (UFC).

This article was published on Brasil de Fato