RIO DE JANEIRO – A Brazilian judge ordered the arrest of the head of Google’s operations in Brazil for failure to remove YouTube videos that attacked a mayoral candidate, which runs counter to the South American nation’s strict pre-vote electoral laws.
Google said in a Tuesday statement that it rejected the decision by Judge Flavio Peren of Mato Grosso do Sul state, which also included an order to remove the two videos in question and a statewide, 24-hour suspension of Google and You Tube.
Police said they had not received an order to arrest Coelho. It was not clear if any suspension of Google’s services occurred in Mato Grosso do Sul state. After hours calls to the court were not returned.
“Google is appealing the decision that ordered the removal of the YouTube video because, in being a platform, Google is not responsible for the content posted on its site,” the company said in an emailed statement from Sao Paulo.
A spokesman said the company would not make any further statement on the case.
The videos on YouTube make incendiary comments about an alleged paternity suit aimed at Alcides Bernal, who is running for mayor of the city of Campo Grande. Nationwide municipal elections will be held Oct. 7. It was not possible to reach Bernal for comment, or verify if any paternity lawsuits had been levelled against him.
Brazil’s electoral law has several restrictions on what opponents or critics can air on television and radio about candidates for office — even comedic needling of politicians is banned during electoral season. The Internet’s role in these cases, until now, was not legally explored, as the government does not license the internet and was considered by most exempt from the law.
However, candidates always have the right to contest before the nation’s electoral courts such ads, and this year more than ever they are doing so.
Google itself has faced similar cases in Brazil.
Earlier this month a judge in Parana state in southern Brazil ordered that Google pay $500,000 for each day that it balked in fulfilling an order to remove videos from YouTube that attacked a candidate.
In the northeastern state of Paraiba, a judge also ordered the imprisonment of another Google executive in Brazil earlier this month, also for not removing videos from YouTube attacking a mayoral candidate. That order was overruled by a higher court.