Google blocks YouTube political video in Brazil

Fabio Coelho, head of Google's Brazil operations, who was arrested and released this week, says the company had no choice. It had lost its "final legal appeal."

Google today bowed to demands from Brazil to restrict access to a YouTube video that had attacked a mayoral candidate.

"Late last night, we learned that our final legal appeal has been denied and so now we have no choice but to block the video in Brazil," Fabio Coelho, head of Google's Brazil operations, said in a post today. "We are deeply disappointed that we have never had the full opportunity to argue in court that these were legitimate free speech videos and should remain available in Brazil."

The move came a day after Brazilian police arrested Coelho, who was released after agreeing to appear in court at an undetermined date. He was detained after the company declined to remove two videos that a judge said violated laws that limit public criticism of political candidates.

Coelho's post (here's the Portuguese version) said the company had received many complaints and court orders "as usual during an election season," and had "pushed back" on the ones it believed to be invalid under Brazilian law. The arrest warrant was issued, he said, "while we were waiting for that appeal to be heard."

A search on YouTube shows several videos of Alcides Bernal, who is running for mayor of Campo Grande, a city with a population of about 800,000, including one alleging he's hiding documents and another accusing him of money laundering.

Jose Zagallo, head of the Brazilian bar association's commission focusing on information technology law, told the Associated Press that Brazil's laws unfairly hold services like Google liable for content they cannot control.

Coelho said: "Despite all this, we will continue to campaign for free expression globally--not just because it's a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people."

Meanwhile, another Brazilian court is asking Google to remove the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" trailer that has sparked demonstrations across the Middle East. In that case, Google has 10 days to remove the video or face a fine of $5,000 per day.

Google has blocked the poorly made anti-Islam video in Egypt, Libya, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and India. Pakistan's government has banned YouTube altogether because of its refusal to block the clip.

The film's creator, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was arrested today on charges stemming from an earlier 2010 conviction for check fraud. Under the terms of his probation, Nakoula was prohibited from using computers or the Internet.

Disclosure: McCullagh is married to a Google employee not involved with this issue.

CNET's Elinor Mills contributed to this report

 

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