Brazil detains local Google chief for not removing YouTube videos

The Latin American country demands that the Web giant take down videos denigrating political candidates, as well as the anti-Islam film that sparked protests across the Middle East.

Brazil made good on its promise today and detained the country's head of operations for Google, according to the Associated Press.

The debacle began last week when Google refused to remove denigrating video clips of a politician from YouTube as ordered by a Brazilian judge. Laws in the country limit public criticism of political candidates.

Since Google failed to remove the clips, Judge Flavio Peren initiated a statewide, 24-hour suspension of Google and YouTube, while also ordering the arrest of Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho.

According to the Associated Press, Brazil's federal police said that Coelho should be released from detention later today once he agrees to appear in court.

The videos in question include negative remarks about Alcides Bernal, who's running for mayor of the city of Campo Grande. A search on YouTube shows several videos of the candidate, including one about documents he's allegedly hiding and another accusing him of money laundering. According to the Associated Press, there are other videos with incendiary comments about an alleged paternity suit involving Bernal.

Google told the Associated Press that it was appealing the decision. "Being a platform, Google is not responsible for the content posted on its site," the company said.

In addition to the political videos, another Brazilian court is also asking Google to take down the "Innocence of Muslims" video trailer that has ignited demonstrations across the Middle East. The film denigrates the prophet Mohammad, casting him as a buffoonish, skirt-chasing molester. In this case, a judge gave Google 10 days to remove the video. If the company fails to remove the video it will be fined $5,000 per day as long as the clip remains online.

Google has blocked the anti-Islam video in Egypt, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and India. Pakistan's government decided to ban YouTube altogether because of its refusal to block the clip. In the U.S., an actress from the film is also suing YouTube saying she was misrepresented and is demanding the trailer be taken down.

Every year, several governments worldwide ask Google to remove content. The Web giant said in June that over the past six months it received more than 1,000 requests from government officials to take down content, including YouTube videos and search listings. It complied with more than half of them. According to the Associated Press, Brazil turned in 194 content-removal requests in the second half of 2011.

CNET has contacted Google for more information and we will update this post when we hear back.

Updated at 7:55 p.m. PT to clarify that Brazil's Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was detained not jailed.
About the author

Dara Kerr, a freelance journalist based in the Bay Area, is fascinated by robots, supercomputers and Internet memes. When not writing about technology and modernity, she likes to travel to far-off countries.

 

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