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World News

Brazil finalising bill to target financiers of 'fake news' attacks

FILE PHOTO: President of Brazil's Lower House Rodrigo Maia speaks next to Government Secretary Jorge Antonio de Oliveira Francisco during a press conference after receiving the administrative reform bill at the National Congress in Brasilia, Brazil, September 3, 2020. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazilian House Speaker Rodrigo Maia said on Tuesday that lawmakers are currently finalising the text of a bill targeting those that finance “fake news” attacks on social media sites, adding that it could be voted on by the end of this year.

The draft of the Brazilian bill was approved in the Senate on June 30, but the lower house created a working group to suggest modifications. Those changes will be finalized in two weeks, Maia said.

President Jair Bolsonaro’s government opposes the bill.

“In 2019 radical movements that support the president created their own dynamic, and I have no doubt that they will try to influence (public opinion),” said Maia, an opponent of the right-wing Brazilian president. “If there are no clear rules, they will have a very big impact.”

Maia said that a recent Brazilian Supreme Court investigation into social media attacks against its members has already helped curtail these types of groups through the fear of prosecution.

The Supreme Court suspended 16 accounts and 12 pages of digital influencers who defend Bolsonaro on social media, including politicians, businessmen and political activists with Twitter and Facebook accounts.

“(Social media) platforms will always say that they have no responsibility, but like any means of communication, they will have to create a path to responsibility too,” Maia said during a webinar organized by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation.

In the run-up to Brazil’s local elections this year, Maia said Brazil must punish individuals who use social media to try and silence and threaten others.

Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Ana Mano; Editing by Paul Simao

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