Access to Public Information, Defamation / Reputation, Digital Rights, Privacy, Data Protection and Retention
Denegri v. Google Inc (Appellate Court)
Closed Mixed Outcome
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
A Brazilian civil court ordered that the sons of the then-President, Jair Bolsanaro, remove social media content accusing an opposition politician of orchestrating an attack on their father. Bolsonaro had been stabbed during a campaign rally before he had been elected president and although an individual with a mental disorder had been convicted of the offence, there was speculation – rejected by the police investigation – that an opposition politician had been involved. The Court held that the sons’ own political positions did not afford them the protection of parliamentary privilege in this situation, and found that their social media posts were defamatory of the opposition politician.
On April 27, 2020, Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro – the sons of then-Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro – posted on their social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) that Jean Wylls, a former congressperson from the PSOL political party, had ordered the stabbing of their father. Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro were political figures in their own right – Carlos was a councillor in the municipal chamber of Rio de Janeiro, and Eduardo Bolsonaro was a federal deputy in the state of São Paulo.
Jair Bolsonaro – then a candidate for the election – had been stabbed during the 2018 Brazilian general election at a campaign rally. The perpetrator of the crime was identified as Adélio Bispo, but there was suspicion that there had been a mastermind behind the attack because Bispo had a lawyer hired for his defense, even though he had no financial means to pay the costs and he had been affiliated with the PSOL between 2007 and 2014. However, the police investigations found that Bispo had acted alone, with no involvement of a political party, and that he suffered from a mental disorder.
Despite the investigation’s conclusion there was continued speculation of political involvement and the dissemination of false content online.
Wyllys filed a lawsuit seeking the removal of the defamatory statements from Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro’s social media accounts. He further claimed he was a “victim of fake news.”
Judge Diogo Barros Boechat delivered the judgment of the 5th Circuit Civil Court in Rio de Janeiro.
The Court held that the parliamentary immunity granted to politicians did not exempt Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro in this situation. It found that the statements about Wyllys attacked his honor and image, and were therefore defamatory of him.
The Court noted that Carlos and Eduardo Bolsanaro’s high profile and that their social media accounts had millions of followers meant that their posts had a high visibility. The Court also highlighted that the speculation about Wyllys’s involvement contradicted the criminal investigation conclusions.
The Judge concluded that “that the defendants’ intention, from the outset, was to publicize the version of the facts which they themselves believed, in order to convince the widest possible audience…They did so with the clear objective of… embarrassing him, offending him and compromising his reputation and credibility, possibly due to political-ideological differences.” [p. 96]
Due to the proven falsity of the content, the Judge found it had no informational or public interest value. In summary, the Court observed, “ [w]e are faced with flagrant ‘fake news’ (false news) engendered and broadcast to tarnish the honor of the chosen victim, in this case, the author, in an attack on the Democratic State of Law, which presupposes an environment of reliability of the information presented to the public, as an essential assumption of the conscious exercise of freedoms and rights of citizenship.” [p. 96]
Accordingly, the Court ordered that Carlos and Eduardo remove from their social media profiles any content that defamed Wyllys .
Note: We did not have access to the initial petition and Carlos and Eduardo Bolsonaro’s defense and so were are only able to analyse the judgment.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
In ordering the removal of content from social media, this judgment contracts expression, but is in line with defamation law in Brazil.
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.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.