Google Inc’s head of operations in Brazil was detained by the country’s federal police on Wednesday after the company failed to heed a judge’s order to take down YouTube videos that the court ruled violate Brazilian electoral law.
The detention came as another court ordered YouTube to remove clips of an anti-Islam film that has been blamed for deadly protests by Muslims around the globe, both joining a spate of court-ordered content-removal cases against Google’s video-sharing Web site in Brazil.
The arrest of Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was announced in Sao Paulo.
A press release issued by the federal police said he was not expected to remain in jail and should be released later in the day.
Brazil’s strict electoral laws limit what critics can say on television, radio and the Internet about candidates for office. Ahead of municipal elections next month, Google has received repeated requests to remove Web videos that allegedly violate those restrictions.
A judge in Mato Grosso do Sul state ordered Coelho’s arrest on Tuesday because the company had not removed YouTube videos that make incendiary comments about an alleged paternity suit aimed at Alcides Bernal, who is running for mayor of the city of Campo Grande. That ruling also included a statewide, 24-hour suspension of Google and YouTube. It was not immediately clear if and how that aspect of the ruling might be carried out.
Google said on Tuesday that it was appealing the decision.
“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 judge in the southern state of Parana earlier ordered Google to pay US$500,000 for each day that it balked at fulfilling an order to remove other videos criticizing a candidate.
Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which promotes digital freedom, said the rash of Brazilian cases was “disappointing, but not surprising” ahead of the country’s nationwide municipal elections on Oct. 7 and Oct. 28.
In a separate case pending against Google, Sao Paulo-based judge Gilson Delgado Miranda gave the site 10 days to remove video clips from Innocence of Muslims, which has angered many Muslims around the world by its depiction of the Prophet Mohammed and his followers as thugs.
After the 10-day window, Google will face fines of US$5,000 a day for every day the clips remain accessible in Brazil, according to the statement on the court’s Web site.
The Innocence of Muslims ruling resulted from a lawsuit by a group representing Brazil’s Muslim community, the National Union of Islamic Entities, which claimed the film violates the country’s constitutional guarantee of religious freedom for all faiths.
The judge in the Brazilian case acknowledged that banning content from sites like YouTube is a thorny issue, according to excerpts of the ruling cited in the National Union of Islamic Entities’ statement.
YouTube routinely blocks video in specific countries if it violates laws there. It also removes video deemed to infringe copyrights, show pornography, contain hate speech or violate other guidelines. However, none of those restrictions had been applied in Brazil to the Innocence of Muslims.
Google is now selectively blocking the video clips in countries that include Libya and Egypt. Google has said it made the decision to block the video in such places due to “the sensitive situations” there.