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[google] said yesterday that it was complying with a Brazilian court's orders to turn over data that could help identify users accused of taking part in online communities that encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia.
Homophobia? Would that be the xenophobic version, the gay bashing version or the religious version?
Is there a difference? Hate speech is hate speech. Any time one group thinks it's OK to single out a group for marginalization, the radical fringe of the group will think it's OK to be violent towards the margininalized group or discriminate against them. Opinions more often than not turn into action...
At the same time I worry about the free speech implications. When it comes down to it people need to be allowed to get things off their chests. But at the same time government needs to monitor the situation to insure that it stays "speech" and doesn't turn into organizing of criminal activity. People need to know that if they cross that line they'll be dealt with severely by way of hate crime laws...
It's a delicate balance. Hopefully Brazil won't go overboard in their attempts to do "good".
online communities that encourage racism, pedophilia and homophobia
That's not the real problem. That's the sanitized P.C. version for the international community.
The real problem is the drug gangs that have have influence on almost every aspect of Brazilian life, at least in the big cities. In the favellas (shanty towns) where MOST of the population of the big cities (Sao Paulo, Rio) live, the drug gangs are the law, as well as the social-service agency. Police rarely go into these areas.
Lately, though, the gangs have increasingly been showing their power in the middle-class enclaves. As an example, invaders recently cleared-out an entire FLOOR of a "secured", high-rise condo in Sao Paulo. Burning public busses is the traditional display of power by the gangs, (and more or less accepted by the police and the public as an occasional inconvenience of city life...) but now recently they have taken to firing automatic weapons into police stations.
The drug gangs are using Orkut to plan and communicate.
Brazil does also have a sex-tourism problem. Prostitution is legal (over 18). But it is a country with widespread poverty, which renders that age barrier moot. The government doesn't encourage sex-tourism - in fact, they recently launched a campaign where they handed-out educational leaflets at the Rio airport to make sure that tourists know the law and know that the government doesn't want sex tourists.
The fact is, Brazil is a country which in many areas is nearly completely lawless. I suppose they see Orkut as both a curse and a cure. A curse, because it gives organized criminal elements a means of very effective communication. A cure, because it gives them a handle on identifying criminals and a trail of evidence. Criminals that they haven't been able to pursue because it is too dangerous for police to pursue them on their own turf.
Brazil has over-worked and under-paid police. I highly doubt they going to waste resources doing thought-policing - they just don't have the time. In any case, it is not the United States, they have their own laws, and Google should respect them if it is to operate in Brazil. It's unfortunate that Brazilian authorities pushed the American "thought crime" hot button in trying to avoid bringing-up the "D word" (drugs) and the "G word" (gangs)...
But at the same time government needs to monitor the situation to insure that it stays "speech" and doesn't turn into organizing of criminal activity. People need to know that if they cross that line
That's the problem - it has.
[edited by: jtara at 3:11 pm (utc) on Sep. 5, 2006]
Oh please. Who decides what is "hate" anyway? As far as hoping that a government doesn't go too far in these sort of things, I actually find that funny.
As much as I'd like to stick it to racists and homephobes, this is pretty frightening. Is the government going to show up and arrest people for expressing unpopular views on the internet? Is Google going to be part of this? Not good.
Even in the USA and Canada this is not protected under unpopular speech, this is spreading hate and promoting hate, not unpopular speech.
I do share some fear though as what they deem to be over the line, and who gets to decide, but the intentions here are nobel.
Who decides what is "hate" anyway?
I think what we are talking about here is advocating violence against specific public officials, etc. This is one of the things the drug gangs do on Orkut. "Here is where this judge live, this prosecutor visits this convenience store every Friday at 9:00, wouldn't it be unfortunate if something happened to him?"
This is not just communication within the drug gangs. It is also inciting the public to either participate with them or protect them. I mentioned in my previous post that the gangs in many cases not only are the only people providing civil order, they also act as a social service agency. To many people living in favalas, the drug gangs are the good guys, because they put down any violence or crime WITHIN the favelas, and actually do provide social services that the government either doesn't or can't (because they don't have unrestricted access to the favalas) provide.
Internet access is available in many of the favalas, and courtesy of guess who? Orkut has proven an ideal channel for the drug gangs to further stregthen their position in the minds of Brazil's poor (who are a large majority) and they are WELL across that line of criminality that was mentioned earlier.
There are more mundane things they can do with Orkut, than suggest bumping-off some public official. If you've been to a large Brazilian city, you probably have heard what sound like gunfire or explosions in the night, and wonder what they are. They are firecrackers that are set-off by spotters. They could mean the police are entering the favala, or they could mean a big drug shipment has arrived, and certain streets need to be cleared, certain businesses closed, etc. to make way. I wouldn't be surprised if the Internet is now used instead of firecrackers in many cases.
Unfortuantely, government officials apparently tried to whitewash the drug/gang problem while at the same time taking the official Brazilian position of moral high ground on hate speech.
Do keep in mind that most of Europe and South America take a different stance on hate speech than we do in the U.S. and have different, more strigent laws than we do.
Really, what Brazil is facing has nothing to do with a polite gentleman up on a soap-box on Speaker's Corner railing about flouride in the water.