SAO PAULO Google Inc's most senior executive in Brazil was questioned by police and released on Wednesday after the company failed to take down YouTube videos attacking a mayoral candidate in violation of local electoral law.
Google is appealing the charges against Fábio José Silva Coelho, who was brought in by federal police in São Paulo and released after he agreed to cooperate with the case, according to a police statement.
The questioning came a day after a state court in São Paulo banned an online video that sparked violent protests across the Muslim world, giving Google 10 days to pull the video from its YouTube unit. Google has not been formally notified about that case by legal authorities, according to a spokesman for the company.
Taken together, the legal scrutiny represents the strongest pressure Google has faced in Brazil to control third-party content uploaded to its websites and the first time its senior executives have come under such intense fire.
"Google is providing clarification to legal authorities," a spokesman for the company in São Paulo said on Wednesday.
Coelho was questioned over a case filed in the western state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where a regional electoral court ruled that the executive was at fault for the company's failure to take down online videos in violation of a stringent 1965 Electoral Code.
Brazilian electoral law bans campaign ads that "offend the dignity or decorum" of a candidate.
The ruling follows a similar decision by another electoral judge in the northeastern state of Paraiba, which also held a senior Google executive responsible for videos in violation of elections laws. That decision was overturned last week.
(Reporting by Esteban Israel in Sao Paulo and Leonardo Goy in Brasilia; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Todd Benson and Richard Chang)