Access to Public Information, Defamation / Reputation, Political Expression
Jereissati v. Mendonça de Barros
On Appeal Contracts Expression
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The São Paulo Court of Justice ruled that Twitter Brasil must provide Aécio Neves da Cunha with the registration information, identification, and electronic records of 20 Twitter users.
Aécio Neves da Cunha, Brazilian senator and former presidential candidate, sued Twitter Brasil, requesting the registration data and electronic records of 55 Twitter users, who he alleges posted defamatory content during the election campaign, denigrating his name, image, and history, and interfering with the electoral process and with citizens’ right to access to information. Twitter Brasil replied that the lawsuit was groundless, claiming that Neves had failed to present a legal justification in order for the company to submit the data registration of those users, and therefore, the necessary conditions for breaching confidentiality and submitting the information were not present.
The São Paulo Court of Justice ruled that Twitter Brasil must provide Neves with the registration information, identification, and electronic records of 20 users.
Although the Court recognized that Article 5, Sections IV and IX, of the Brazilian Constitution expressly guarantee the right to freedom of expression, it observed that Article 5, Section X, acknowledges the inviolability of the rights to intimacy, private life, and honor and image of persons, assuring the right to compensation in the event of any violation of these rights.
The Court emphasized that every manifestation must be divulged responsibly and be respectful of the rights of others, and it could not find support in the argument that freedom of speech legitimizes each and every act. If there is excessive publication or disclosure by any public medium, as well as a divulgence of content that infringes another person’s rights, it is appropriate to apply measures that restrain such a practice.
The Court found that there were 20 Twitter users who had linked Neves to drug-related criminal activities. As a result, Neves had a right to identify those users and take the necessary measures against them, because these users had made accusations discrediting him, with a possible offense to his personality rights. However, the Court found that the same level had not occurred in regards to the remaining Twitter users from whom Neves had requested information: they had shared news links, but were not responsible for the content. In addition, these users had not made any offensive comment that could justify disclosing their Twitter registration data. They had only expressed their criticisms of Neves.
The Court noted that it is not up to Twitter Brasil to defend its users, because what is being challenged is the conduct of a third party. Since Twitter only uploads the content, it cannot argue violations of freedom of speech.
Twitter Brasil has appealed this decision.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
By ordering Twitter Brasil to provide the registration information, identification, and electronic records of 20 Twitter users, the São Paulo Court of Justice failed to recognize Twitter’s freedom of speech. In doing so, the Court has afforded a broader protection to the constitutional rights to privacy and to a person’s image than to freedom of speech.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
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