SAO PAULO, Brazil -- The head of operations for Google in Brazil has been arrested after the site declined to remove two videos that criticized a local candidate, federal police said.
Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was to be released from custody in Sao Paulo immediately after signing a pledge to face the charges in court. He faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Google had no immediate official comment on the arrest but had said it was appealing the “court’s decision to remove a video from YouTube because, as a platform, we are not responsible for the content uploaded to our site."
Brazilian politicians widely pride themselves on the country's freedom of expression, and the Web is full of critical content. But there are laws that prohibit “slander, insults or defamation” of candidates during electoral season. The country votes in municipal polling Oct. 7.
In this case, two videos accuse Alcides Bernal, who is running for mayor of Campo Grande, of “instigating abortion, drunkenness, harming a minor physically, illegally enriching himself” and “contempt and prejudice against the poor,” according to the decision issued by a court in the sparsely populated southwestern state of Mato Grosso do Sul.
“We don’t want anything bad to happen to Google’s director,” Bernal told a local newspaper. “What we can’t allow is people with bad intentions, acting criminally, to use Google and YouTube to wage defamatory campaigns against people ... asking the people for votes.”
Last week, a similar order was issued for the arrest of Edmundo Luiz Pinto Balthazar, another Google executive, but a higher court overturned it, saying Balthazar couldn’t be held responsible for the contents of YouTube.
The most recent order was carried out Wednesday afternoon.
Courts have also backed a request by the National Union of Islamic Entities to force Google to remove the infamous “Innocence of Muslims” video, which sparked protests around the world. Google said Wednesday that it has not received any formal order in that case.
-- Vincent Bevins in Sao Paulo and Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: Google executive Fabio Jose Silva Coelho, seen in a file photo, was detained by federal police Wednesday. Credit: Carol Carquejeiro / Agencia O Globo