Brazil

Partly Free
65
100
A Obstacles to Access 20 25
B Limits on Content 24 35
C Violations of User Rights 21 40
Last Year's Score & Status
64 100 Partly Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.

header1 Overview

Internet freedom in Brazil improved slightly during the coverage period, bolstered by a lack of technical attacks against media outlets and rights organizations seen in years past. Other developments protecting the rights of users included a decision to enshrine the protection of personal data in the constitution, the removal of some problematic provisions during legislative discussion on a “fake news” bill, and the Supreme Court’s quick nullification of new rules to keep social media platforms from removing content for violating terms of service and other policies. The health of Brazil’s online sphere has been eroded, however, by disinformation campaigns promulgated by President Jair Bolsonaro and his allies, which flooded the online landscape ahead of the October 2022 general election; criminal defamation suits continue to be levelled against online journalists for their reporting; and physical attacks, sometimes fatal, for online speech still pose a threat to those covering sensitive issues online.

Brazil is a democracy that holds competitive elections, and the political arena, though polarized, is characterized by vibrant public debate. President Bolsonaro, of the far-right Social Liberal Party (PSL), pledged to wipe out corruption and violent crime. However, his government has struggled to address those issues, targeted journalists and civil society activists with harassment, and spread harmful disinformation. Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked independent media and made homophobic and racist remarks, which have only deepened those issues in society more broadly. High levels of harassment and violence, coupled with impunity, continue to threaten independent journalists and civil society activists.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2021 - May 31, 2022

  • A deal involving one major mobile provider’s acquisition of another closed in April 2022, further limiting competition in the already highly concentrated mobile market (see A4).
  • A Federal Supreme Court (STF) justice ordered the suspension of Telegram in March 2022 on grounds that the messaging app had failed to cooperate with authorities in the lead-up to the October 2022 general election. The order directed providers to make the app unusable in Brazil and instructed Apple and Google to remove Telegram from their mobile app stores, giving the companies five days to do so. The ban did not ultimately take effect; it was lifted two days later, after Telegram quickly complied with court orders to remove certain content and appoint a local legal representative (see B1, B2, B3, and C4).
  • In September 2021, President Bolsonaro signed new rules to keep social media platforms—at the risk of fines—from removing content for violating terms of service and other platform policies. The Supreme Court and Brazilian Senate nullified the rules a week later (see B3).
  • A problematic “fake news” bill approved by the Senate in 2020 has since undergone significant changes, viewed by civil society as both positive and negative. The most recent version of the bill has dropped a problematic traceability mandate and criminal penalties for online speech, though it includes troublesome articles granting parliamentarian immunity and compel platforms renumerate media companies for “journalistic content” (see B3, C2, C4, and C6).
  • Disinformation, largely amplified by Bolsonaro and his allies in order to cast doubt on the integrity of the vote, flooded the online landscape ahead of the October 2022 general election (see B5).
  • In a landmark elevation of privacy rights, Brazilian lawmakers enshrined the protection of personal data in the constitution in February 2022 (see C6).
  • Unlike in past coverage periods, news outlets and human rights organizations did not report being targeted with technical attacks (see C8).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 5.005 6.006

Some 83.20 percent of households have access to the internet, according to Economist Impact’s 2022 Inclusive Internet Index.1 According to data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), internet penetration rates stood at 81.34 percent as of 2020.2 There has been notable growth in cable and fiber-optic use in recent years.

Mobile penetration has grown significantly, and mobile-broadband connections have quickly become many Brazilians’ primary means of accessing the internet. The 2021 Inclusive Internet Index reported that Brazil had 96 mobile subscriptions per 100 inhabitants.3 According to the Regional Center for Studies on the Development of the Information Society (Cetic.br) data for 2021, the most recent available, some 64 percent of users accessed the internet exclusively via mobile phone.4

Brazil ranked 58th globally for mobile speeds in August 2022, with median download speeds of 32.00 megabits per second (Mbps) and median upload speeds of 10.79 Mbps. The country ranked 31st globally for broadband speeds, with median download speeds of 94.36 Mpbs and median upload speeds of 52.27 Mbps.5 The country’s level of access to fourth-generation (4G) technology for mobile networks has grown rapidly since it was introduced in 2013.6

Brazil’s federal government has implemented, since 2010, several internet expansion and improvement programs, including the National Broadband Plan (PNBL).7 Although there have been improvements in internet access since its launch, the PNBL was criticized by civil society for the low quality of broadband connections offered at popular prices and the plan’s poor or nonexistent conditions in rural areas (see A2).8

In 2017, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation, and Communications (MCTIC) launched a new national connectivity plan, Internet para Todos (Internet for All), to expand access to underserved areas and improve fixed- and mobile-broadband infrastructure in the country.9 That includes providing satellite-broadband connectivity via Brazil’s first defense and strategic communications satellite.10 As reported in May 2020, the satellite connects 11,450 points, most of them public schools.

In December 2020, Bolsonaro enacted Law No. 14.109/2020,11 which reforms the Fund for the Universalization of Telecommunications Services (FUST) law so that money collected can be used for the construction and improvement of broadband infrastructure.12 However, Bolsonaro vetoed provisions mandating the allocation of resources to geographical areas based on criteria such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and the requirement to connect all Brazilian public schools with FUST resources.13

Bolsonaro has also leveled other legal challenges that have inhibited the implementation of expansion projects. In June 2021, for instance, Bolsonaro vetoed a provisional measure to encourage the expansion of broadband internet access by reducing fees for satellite internet providers.14

In February 2021, the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) approved the rules for a spectrum auction for fifth-generation (5G) technology.15 Following 5G spectrum auctions in November and December 2021,16 access to 5G first became available in July 2022, after the coverage period, in Brasília. The capital will serve as a pilot city for the technology. Other state capitals are expected to have 5G coverage by the fall of 2022 due to delays in implementation. Access to 5G technology in all municipalities with a population of 30,000 or more will be implemented gradually by the end of 2029.17 Prior to the auction, civil society organizations criticized the proposed implementation of 5G as deepening inequalities and compromising digital inclusion, among other things.18

A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 1.001 3.003

Geographic and socioeconomic disparities in internet access persist in Brazil, though the divide between urban and rural users has been closing in recent years.1 The most recently available study, from 2021, shows that internet use is lower in rural areas (71 percent) and the North and Northeast Regions (77 and 79 percent, respectively), as well as among lower-income populations (61 percent).2 Price is considered a main barrier: in 2021, 31 percent of households that did not have internet access said it was because it was too expensive.3

Limited mobile plans that include zero-rating agreements—which provide unlimited access to certain online platforms by exempting their use from a plan’s data cap—are common in Brazil. Sharing internet connections is also a common practice in Brazil, particularly in poorer neighborhoods. Higher data usage poses additional costs, and lower-income users tend to have connection plans with low data caps. According to Anatel, 55 percent of mobile internet connections in March 2020 were prepaid, typically with low data caps.4

The government, private companies, and civil society organizations have launched initiatives, sometimes jointly, with the aim of lessening the digital divide. In September 2021, the Ministry of Communications signed an agreement with government-owned Banco do Brasil and a private nonprofit small business development entity to expand the public Wi-Fi network with an additional 500 Wi-Fi hotspots by 2022.5 A number of equitable access projects have been impactful, including one civil society initiative to establish and expand community networks in Indigenous communities.6

In December 2021, the government created the Internet Brazil program with the aim of providing free mobile broadband connections to low-income public school students whose families are enrolled in the national registry of social programs.7 The government is expected to deliver and maintain for eligible students up to 700,000 chips with a package of 20 gigabytes (GB) of data per month.8 Bolsonaro has issued legal challenges against efforts to expand access to similar groups, however; in June 2021, Bolsonaro sued the STF days after passage of a law, originally spurred by the coronavirus pandemic, that provided 3.5 billion reals ($704 million) to states and municipalities to provide internet access to students and teachers from the public school system.9

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 6.006 6.006

The government does not place limits on bandwidth, nor does it impose control over telecommunications infrastructure. There have been no reported instances of the government cutting off internet connectivity during protests or social unrest.

Private backbone infrastructure, such as that of Oi, GVT, and Embratel, has expanded in Brazil since the privatization of the state-owned company Embratel, which had been responsible for building the internet backbone, in 1998.1

International undersea cables connect to Brazil from North America and Europe. The first undersea fiber-optic cable linking Brazil to Europe, a joint effort by the governments of Brazil and Spain,2 began operating in June 2021.3

In 2004, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) launched the PTT Metro initiative to create internet exchange points (IXPs) across Brazil, and it has expanded ever since. As of March 2020, IXPs connected about 2,500 participants, including internet service providers (ISPs); telecommunications operators; content providers; content delivery networks; academic networks; and research, government, and business customers.4

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 5.005 6.006

There are no significant legal or economic barriers for companies competing in the ISP, mobile, or digital technology sectors. The broadband market has become increasingly competitive in recent years, spurred by the growth of regional ISPs, though concentration in the mobile market remains high.

In 2022, three large private companies—Claro, Vivo (Telefônica Brasil), and Oi—represented nearly 49 percent of the country’s broadband market, down from almost 80 percent in 2017.1 Despite growth barriers, particularly high taxes, regional ISPs have grown at a fast rate and created more competition in the broadband sector.2 A May 2022 survey showed that regional ISPs, comprising 18,732 providers, have captured a market share of 46.85 percent.3 Moreover, regional providers have filled demand in small- and medium-sized cities as the licensing process has become easier.4 However, organizations supporting the development of community networks in the country face challenges, particularly due to registration obstacles presented by excessive bureaucracy and the various spectrum-management policies in place.5

Concentration in the mobile market remains high and was further upheld by the April 2022 closure of a deal on major mobile provider TIM’s acquisition of Oi’s mobile operations.6 As of May 2022, Claro, Vivo, and TIM held 97.7 percent of the mobile market.7

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 3.003 4.004

Two regulatory agencies oversee Brazilian information and communications technologies (ICTs): Anatel and the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), an antitrust agency that is focused on reviewing mergers and anticompetitive practices in telecommunications markets.1

Anatel is administratively and financially independent, and not hierarchically subordinate to any government agency. Its decisions are only subject to judicial review in national courts. From the Ministry of Communications, Anatel has inherited the powers of granting, regulating, and supervising telecommunications in Brazil, as well as much of its technical expertise and other material assets.

Anatel has received some criticism for aligning with private interests in the past.2 In recent years, however, the agency has made moves that counter that perception, simplifying licensing processes to allow for market competition by small, regional ISPs and appointing the first-ever career civil servant to the role of agency president in 2018 (see A4).3 Anatel’s role throughout 2022 will largely involve oversight of initiatives to expand connectivity and improve infrastructure throughout Brazil, as the agency drafts and implements new rules for the Fund for the Universalization of Telecommunications Services and the 5G spectrum auction (see A1 and A2).4

The government also created, in 1995, the CGI.br, a multistakeholder independent organization in charge of coordinating and integrating all internet service initiatives in Brazil, as well as promoting technical quality, innovation, and the dissemination of services. CGI.br’s members are government officials and representatives from the private sector, civil society, and scientific and technological community.5 Provisions in the Brazilian Civil Framework of the Internet (Marco Civil da Internet, or Marco Civil)—also known as the “Internet Constitution”—mandate that the government consult with CGI.br and, in various instances, directly involve the committee in policymaking and implementation of Marco Civil processes. However, a clear mechanism to do so has not yet been established.

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 5.005 6.006

There are no proven indications that Brazilian authorities filter messages or engage in widespread blocking online. Social networks, communication apps, and video-sharing platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo, and Vevo, are for the most part freely accessible and widely used in Brazil.

However, in March 2022, Federal Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered the suspension of Telegram on the grounds that the messaging app had failed to cooperate with authorities, including by removing accounts spreading misinformation, in the lead-up to the October 2022 general election.1 The order directed providers to make the app unusable in Brazil and instructed Apple and Google to remove Telegram from their mobile app stores, giving the companies five days to do so. The ban did not ultimately take effect; it was lifted two days after being issued, after Telegram quickly complied with court orders to remove certain content and appoint a local legal representative (see B2 and B3).2

Previously, the most recent block to a social media platform took place in 2016, when telecommunications companies were asked to block WhatsApp after the company failed to comply with information requests as part of criminal investigations (see B3).3

At least one website featuring human rights content has likely been blocked in Brazil. In late 2019, digital rights groups found that the website of Women on Waves, a Dutch nongovernmental organization (NGO) that promotes reproductive rights (which are heavily restricted in Brazil: for example, abortion is outlawed with a few extreme exceptions), was likely blocked by several networks in Brazil, including two of the main ISPs, Claro and Vivo.4 The Intercept reported in December 2019 that Women on Waves remained inaccessible on Claro, but was available on Vivo, which had also reportedly blocked the site intermittently.5 The site has since been reported to be accessible.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

Lawsuits and legal threats have been frequently used, particularly by politicians and political authorities, to restrict the circulation of content criticizing them.1

The government regularly requests that social media platforms remove content. In March 2022, Telegram removed a number of accounts and channels spreading disinformation, including accounts belonging to a prominent Bolsonaro supporter under investigation for such activities, in an effort to avoid a ban imposed by the Federal Supreme Court after the app failed to cooperate with authorities in the lead-up to the 2022 election (see B1). The app also removed links to classified information, which had been shared by the president, related to an investigation into allegations that the government was using official channels to spread disinformation and sow doubts about electoral integrity, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s orders.2

In addition to removing the specified accounts, Telegram committed to monitoring its 100 most popular channels in Brazil, working with local fact-checking organizations to determine the veracity of posts, and establishing a framework to address court requests more promptly.3 In May 2022, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE)4 and Telegram signed a formal collaboration agreement to combat electoral disinformation, including by creating an official TSE Telegram channel to disseminate official electoral information and developing functions for marking content as disinformation.5 The TSE signed similar cooperation agreements in February 2022 with Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, WhatsApp, Google, Instagram, YouTube, and Kwai, which agreed to remove inauthentic accounts and malicious content, in addition to creating filters to combat misinformation.6

Apart from the Telegram ban, the courts have sought for years the removal of accounts tied to the spread of disinformation. Between July 2020 and early 2021,7 the Supreme Court issued a series of orders requiring social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to block the profiles of individuals implicated in a fake news inquiry, initiated by the court in 2019 and linked to evidence that Bolsonaro supporters had been coordinating on social media to create and disseminate false information.8 Facebook complied with the order in August 2020, placing a global block on 12 accounts, but made an appeal, which was pending as of May 2022, the end of the coverage period.9 Twitter also complied with the order, removing 16 accounts.10

Between July and December 2021, Google received 643 government requests for content removal, including for defamation (167) and privacy and security (137).11 Google removed over 68 percent of requested items. Affected content included a political news channel that had previously been removed for violating YouTube’s terms of service.12 Facebook’s Transparency Report indicates that 894 pieces of content were restricted in Brazil during that same time period, “in compliance with orders from local courts related to civil, criminal, and electoral proceedings.”13

Legal attempts by Brazilian politicians to remove critical social media posts, online news articles, or blog posts have been particularly common during past elections. The Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji), a free expression advocacy group, recorded at least 500 such attempts during the 2018 election campaign. President Bolsonaro was among the most active proponents of such judicial actions, filing at least 31 cases.14

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 2.002 4.004

Brazil’s Marco Civil has clarified issues related to intermediary liability in order to protect freedom of expression, grant due process, and prevent prior censorship, establishing that service providers are only held liable for third-party content if they fail to remove content after a specific court order.1 Despite Brazil boasting some of the most comprehensive legislation on digital rights, the Marco Civil was used as a key argument for disproportionate orders to block WhatsApp in 2015 and 2016.2 Drafted legislation has proposed restricting the power of judges to order blockings of such magnitude,3 but no specific law had been advanced as of 2022.

Intermediary liability issues clarified by the Marco Civil have been further settled in recent years through case law established by the High Court of Justice (STJ), with the STJ ruling toward a judicial notice-and-takedown model.4 Exceptions were made for copyright infringement and the dissemination of nonconsensual sexual images or videos. In cases pertaining to the latter, the user’s notification alone is enough to make the intermediary liable, should it refuse to make the content unavailable in a short time period.5

A 2019 STJ decision helps limit removal requests based only on broad complaints, such as claims that content violated someone’s honor. The case involved an appeal of a ruling that compelled e-commerce company Mercado Livre to remove advertisements from its platform; the STJ sided with the company and stated that the URLs must be provided in removal requests, which should come from a private notification or court order.6 In February 2021, the Supreme Court adopted a landmark decision claiming that the “right to be forgotten” is incompatible with the constitution.7

Multiple legislative efforts to amend the current intermediary liability system, largely viewed as problematic by digital rights organizations and service providers, have been made in recent years. In September 2021, President Bolsonaro issued new social media rules under a provisional measure, which was effective immediately, to keep social media platforms—at the risk of fines—from removing content for violating terms of service and other platform policies, instead requiring a court decision to restrict content.8 The rules sparked concern from civil society, which considered them as attempts to allow Bolsonaro and his allies to spread disinformation ahead of and undermine public confidence in the 2022 election.9 Critics also denounced the rules’ delegation of oversight and enforcement powers to the executive, which they argued effectively allowed the government to co-opt social media, citing the vague categories of content listed under the legislation and the harsh consequences for noncompliance, including fines and an effective ban on operating in the country.10 The Supreme Court and Brazilian Senate nullified the rules a week later; 11 lawmakers labeled the rules unconstitutional and characterized their issuance an “abusive exercise” by the executive.12

Several other draft laws seeking to prevent social media companies from labeling or removing content deemed harmful, at risk of fines, were introduced during the previous coverage period, in February 2021, though none had passed as of July 2022.13 The draft laws followed the January 6, 2021, attack on the United States Capitol and YouTube’s temporary removal of two channels belonging to Terça Livre, a popular pro-Bolsonaro news portal, in February 2021 for violating the platform’s terms of service—including with one video alleging fraud in the United States’ 2020 presidential election.14 The channels were reinstated in March following an injunction by the Court of Justice of São Paulo.15

In June 2020, after fast-tracked procedures, the Senate approved a draft “fake news” bill (PLS No. 2630/2020), which would sanction platforms that fail to provide transparency reports, label bots, or highlight corrections from independent fact-checkers (see C1, C2, C4, and C6).16 According to its text, internet platforms must apply “responsible verification” instead of moderating and removing content. Civil society groups sharply criticized lawmakers’ move to rush the bill through Senate procedures, as well as the bill itself for violating the Marco Civil’s provisions on intermediary liability.17

The draft bill underwent significant changes, some of which were celebrated by civil society, since the Chamber of Deputies began discussing the bill in July 2020.18 The most recent version of the bill, presented by Congressman Orlando Silva in March 2022, no longer aims to directly address fake news or what can and cannot be said on social networks (see C2).19 Problematic provisions remain, however, including an article granting immunity to parliamentarians from being held liable for their online speech, including for spreading disinformation, effectively placing them out of reach of platforms’ content moderation policies (see B6, C4, and C6).20

The Chamber narrowly rejected a request to fast-track the most recent version of the bill in an April 2022 vote, in part due to demands from Brazilian journalists. The rejection means that the bill must go through Congressional thematic committees before being voted on; the time line for the vote remained uncertain as of the end of the coverage period.21 The rejection of fast-tracking procedures was seen as a victory for prominent social networks like Google and Facebook, which had been lobbying against an article compelling platforms’ renumeration for journalistic content and the bill’s transparency requirements for ad targeting and content moderation (see B6).

The most recent version of the bill maintained transparency requirements seen as long overdue by some disinformation researchers. These requirements include the disclosure of details around platforms’ content moderation teams, the number of misleading or false posts removed or labeled as such, and the reach of such posts. The updated bill would also entitle users to view the history of ads and promoted content and details around the criteria used for ad targeting, information the platforms opposed sharing on claims that it would violate privacy and render them vulnerable to bad actors.22 It would further require platforms to appoint local legal representatives with full powers to comply with court orders and respond to administrative and judicial requests.23 Researchers have separately criticized a lack of transparency from the judiciary in requests for information in cases involving social media companies, including the removal of content.24

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 3.003 4.004

Threats and violence against online journalists and independent bloggers in certain areas of the country contribute to self-censorship (see C7).1 The climate of intimidation escalated during the polarized 2018 election campaign that saw President Bolsonaro’s rise to power, as both he and his followers launched online intimidation campaigns against critics.2

Bolsonaro has continued to intimidate and harass journalists since his election, with press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) noting an intensification in the number of attacks by the president, his family, and his allies in the first six months of 2021.3 In 2020, RSF registered 580 attacks against the media, 469 (85.2 percent) of which came from Bolsonaro or his sons; they were responsible for 331 attacks on the press in the first half of 2021.4 Online outlets and journalists have increasingly self-censored due to this barrage of harassment and assaults.

The threat of violence has led some outlets and online journalists to cease or alter their coverage of certain topics.5 In February 2022, for instance, the day after the murder of online journalist Givanildo Oliveira in the city of Fortaleza, online news outlet Portal de Fortaleza announced that it would stop covering crime and policing to “avoid becoming a target” (see C7).6

An escalation in online harassment has also caused journalists, especially women and LGBT+ communicators, to self-censor or adjust their behavior online. According to a survey of these journalists conducted by RSF between August 9 and September 6, 2021, 25 percent had closed their personal social media accounts, including temporarily, because of online attacks against them, while 8 out 10 had changed their behavior on social media to protect themselves from such attacks.7 Reporting from 2020 noted an escalation in online political violence against candidates who are Black, women, or gender-diverse; that increase was flagged by civil society as potentially diminishing the online engagement of individuals identifying with those groups during elections.8

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 1.001 4.004

Manipulated content is common in the Brazilian online environment, with a notable proliferation of disinformation during the 2018 and 2022 election campaigns. The problem deepened during the COVID-19 pandemic, as Bolsonaro and his allies pushed out damaging COVID-19 disinformation.1 Judicial reports have emerged that point to the existence of a fake news network allegedly organized by a criminal organization believed to include one of Bolsonaro’s sons. A former ally of Bolsonaro has come forward with claims that the president is directing funds to a so-called “office of hate,” in which employees attack Bolsonaro’s critics online.

Disinformation, largely amplified by Bolsonaro and his allies in an effort to cast doubt on the integrity of the vote, flooded the online landscape ahead of the October 2022 general election. One study conducted in the months leading up to the election found that 4 out of 10 Brazilians received disinformation on a daily basis.2 False or misleading information most frequently involved spreading distrust in the electoral system, including the role of the TSE, opinion polls, and electronic voting systems.3

Bolsonaro and his allies served as a key source of those claims.4 Between Bolsonaro’s inauguration and August 2022, fact-checking organization Aos Fatos found Bolsonaro to have made at least 6,000 false or misleading statements.5 These statements, including frequent remarks alleging that the election is vulnerable to fraud,6 were then reproduced and disseminated on official online channels and social media accounts, constituting an organized and well-financed disinformation machine that was reportedly capable of engaging between 10 and 20 percent of the population, according to reporting from April 2022.7 The government predominantly relies on WhatsApp, which was a major vector of election disinformation in 2018,8 to spread its narratives, as well as Telegram, which it has increasingly favored as other platforms have clamped down on the spread of electoral disinformation. Bolsonaro’s Telegram channel had amassed 1.2 million followers and become the most popular in the country as of March 2022.9 Supporters are often directed to prominent Telegram channels via hyperlinks posted to other social media platforms by high-profile Bolsonaro associates; links on Telegram and WhatsApp also lead to false or misleading content on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram.10

In December 2021, federal police found Bolsonaro to have played a “direct and relevant” role in the proliferation of disinformation around electoral integrity during live streams on social media, calling the 2018 election rigged on claims that he should have been elected in the first round of voting, and casting doubt on the integrity of the 2022 election with insinuations that he would not accept the results unless the electronic system were changed. The federal police commissioner alleged that Bolsonaro had a “clear purpose” of misleading the public about the elections’ integrity.11

Supporters of the president have further amplified his false claims around the likelihood of fraudulent elections in 2022. In September 2022, after the coverage period, the newspaper Estadão reported that a quarter of messages in Telegram groups supporting Bolsonaro mentioned electoral fraud.12 Between November 2020 and January 2022, the Getulio Vargas Foundation research institution recorded 400,000 Facebook posts published by nearly 28,000 accounts about electronic voting machine fraud and auditable printed votes, attracting more than 111 million interactions. Twelve accounts saw the highest volume of interaction, amassing around or over 1 million; all but one belonged to individuals aligned with Bolsonaro or the right-wing political agenda, including elected representatives and the president himself. Of the 20 most popular messages alleging fraud in the use of electronic voting machines, 13 came from the president’s Facebook page.13

Government institutions and private actors have undertaken various efforts to address disinformation in the run-up to the 2022 election, including through the March 2022 banning of WhatsApp and the signing of cooperation agreements between the TSE and a number of platforms to combat false or misleading information and remove inauthentic accounts and malicious content (see B1, B2, and B3). The effectiveness of these efforts remains unclear, however. In August 2022, after the coverage period, international NGO Global Witness published an investigation revealing that Facebook had failed to detect election-related disinformation in 10 Brazilian Portuguese-language ads it had submitted. The platform approved each of the ads, all of which violated Meta’s election ad policies, for containing false information about the election or content delegitimizing the electoral process, and Meta’s political ad policy, as the ads were placed using an unverified account.14

In a report released in May 2020 as part of an investigation into pro-Bolsonaro criticism of the Supreme Court on social media,15 the court said it had identified the existence of a criminal association dedicated to the spread of false news.16 In the investigation, the federal police named Carlos Bolsonaro, the president’s son, as an organizer of the scheme.17

Separately, in December 2019, a former ally of the president, Joice Hasselmann, accused the administration of having an “office of hate.” Equipped by a so-called “digital militia” comprised of publicly funded civil servants, the office reportedly serves as a center from which to attack online the president’s enemies, including politicians and journalists. Bolsonaro has denied the existence of such an office.18

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 2.002 3.003

Regulatory and economic constraints are relatively minor in Brazil.

Brazil lacks a regulatory framework around the use of public funds for state advertisement in media outlets, including online media. Discriminatory use of state advertisement for political control remains a concern at the federal and local levels in Brazil.1

While historically much of the state advertising budget has been directed to television, the Bolsonaro administration’s priority has increasingly shifted to online platforms. In August 2020, The Intercept Brasil reported that the Bolsonaro administration paid Google more than 11 million reals ($2 million) between May 2019 and July 2020 to distribute pro-government ads.2

During his 2018 electoral campaign, Bolsonaro threatened to cut off state advertisements from a newspaper that had been reporting on irregularities in his campaign operations.3 After taking office, he said that the government would cut advertisement to media allegedly as a strategy to guarantee independence. These declarations came in conjunction with criticism against the press for its “partiality.”4

The draft fake news bill would compel major platforms to pay media companies for the use of their “journalistic content.” In April 2022, a coalition of free press and digital rights organizations published a manifesto urging the removal of the related article, labeling it a threat to journalistic plurality. Echoing criticisms made in an open letter signed by Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Mercado Livre published in March, the coalition warned against the proposed renumeration model’s potential to harm local and independent journalism and favor only large, traditional media outlets, as it could force platforms to choose which outlets to pay for.5 The organization also criticized the article’s vague language around what constitutes “journalist content.”

Since the approval of the Marco Civil, net neutrality has been incorporated into Brazilian law. Enacted in May 2016, a new decree regulating the Marco Civil solidified the rules that prohibit the discrimination or degradation of traffic for commercial purposes, while permitting it for public emergencies.6 Any notice of violation of said principle by companies may be investigated and sanctioned.7

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3.003 4.004

Brazil’s online sphere is vibrant, featuring many frequently updated websites and social media pages that examine issues of the day from a variety of perspectives. However, many users have limited access to information beyond social media platforms given the widespread practice of zero-rating agreements for mobile plans,1 and some regions lack robust local coverage.

A December 2019 survey by the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate identified WhatsApp as the main source of information for a large part of the population. Of the 2,400 people interviewed by phone, 79 percent said they “always” received news from the platform. Other popular online news sources included YouTube, Facebook, news sites, and Instagram.2 The YouTube channel Spartakus, which focuses largely on pop culture, discusses topics like white privilege, meritocracy, and LGBT+ rights.3

Some areas of the country have limited or no local news coverage, especially in the North and Northeast Regions, which have comparably large Indigenous and Afro-Brazilian populations.4 While digital news initiatives have succeeded in slowly reducing the size of these news deserts in recent years, nearly 14 percent of the population did not have access to local journalistic information, online or offline, in 2021.5 Some organizations publish online content in Indigenous languages. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, Indigenous organization Namunkurá Associação Xavante started sharing news reports about the pandemic in the Xavante language.6

In recent years, new online right-wing media outlets have emerged, including groups focused on “alternative information” like Folha Política or Mídia Sem Máscara (media without a mask). Many of these outlets are being investigated in a Supreme Court inquiry (see B5). Brazil’s vibrant online sphere continues to provide counterparts to these right-wing narratives with the widespread emergence of fact-checking initiatives.7

B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 6.006 6.006

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter—and, more recently, closed-messaging platforms such as WhatsApp—play a central role in civic activism in Brazil. However, the use of these platforms to mobilize around political causes is complicated by disinformation campaigns (see B5).

Between April and June 2022, for instance, think tank Instituto Igarapé identified 352 threats to civic space in Brazil; 157 of those were disinformation campaigns, which mainly attacked political adversaries.1

Citizens can engage with lawmakers online to express opinions and shape the design and implementation of legislation.2 Activists also use social media as a tool for political mobilization. Reporting from April 2022, for instance, outlined how Indigenous influencers have uploaded videos to online channels to inform and mobilize users against a series of Bolsonaro’s policies that threaten the environment and Brazil’s Indigenous peoples.3

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 4.004 6.006

The Brazilian constitution forbids anonymity but protects freedom of the press and freedom of speech, including cultural and religious expression.1 While the constitution guarantees freedom of expression, the broader legal framework provides inadequate protection for that right. The groundbreaking Marco Civil, a framework for internet user rights signed into law in 2014,2 establishes the right to freedom of expression online, offers detailed privacy protections pertaining to personal data, guarantees net neutrality, and promises to uphold the participatory nature of the internet. However, constitutional protections and those in the Marco Civil are undermined by defamation and other laws that can be misused to criminalize legitimate speech (see C2).3 Impunity for crimes against users, such as harassment, threats, and violence, persists.4

Multiple attempts have been made to change and weaken legal guarantees on freedom of expression, privacy, and access to the internet. To respond to and resist multiple draft bills, digital rights–focused civil society organizations created a coalition in 2016 that has been actively monitoring and engaging with Congress on these issues.5

The judiciary is largely independent, and the Federal Supreme Court has remained an autonomous counterweight to the executive. The STF has illustrated its independence in rulings concerning online freedoms, as when it nullified new social media rules issued by President Bolsonaro under provisional measure in September 2021 (see B2). 6

However, freedom of expression and access to information have been undermined by Bolsonaro, who has verbally attacked reporters and threatened them with jail time in the past (see C7).7 Since entering into force in 2020, the General Data Protection Law (LGPD) has been used by federal agencies to systematically deny access to information requests.8

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2.002 4.004

Brazil maintains legislation that criminalizes online expression.

Defamation is punishable by six months to two years in prison or a fine under the penal code.1 Reforms to the electoral code in 2019 criminalized “slanderous denunciation” for electoral purposes, providing prison sentences between two and eight years for anyone making false accusations, through any means, about a political candidate for the purpose of affecting his or her candidacy.2 Lawmakers have proposed extending criminal penalties for honor offenses online.3

Although people are rarely charged or imprisoned for racist or discriminatory speech, Brazilian law establishes penalties ranging from two to five years in prison for practicing or inciting discrimination based on race, ethnicity, or religion in the media or other publications.4 The criminal code further outlines punishment for vilifying or mocking religion, with penalties ranging from one month to one year in prison, although whether these penalties have been applied to online speech is unclear.

Brazilian cybercrime law criminalizes breaches of digital privacy such as computer intrusion, the “installation of vulnerabilities,” and editing, obtaining, or deleting information—including credit card numbers—without authorization. The distribution, sale, production, or offer of programs or devices meant to facilitate these actions, or to interrupt ICT services, are also categorized as crimes.5

The National Security Act, a law enacted during the military dictatorship in 1964–85 that criminalizes harming or endangering the heads of the branches of government, was increasingly used by the president, legislature, and judiciary to open investigations into critical online expression after Bolsonaro came to power (see C3).6 A law that would repeal and replace the National Security Act, Bill No. 6764/2002, was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in May 2021 and by the Senate in August 2021,7 to little enthusiasm from digital rights activists.8 The new bill is also seen as a threat to free expression, assembly, and association as it includes vaguely worded provisions criminalizing “mass misleading communication” and the dissemination of “secret documents” to foreign governments; it also lacks whistleblower protections for the sake of investigative journalists.9

The draft “fake news” bill (PLS No. 2630/2020), approved by the Senate in June 2020, originally provided for criminal penalties, including prison sentences of up to five years for those who generate or circulate content that undermines the undefined “social peace” or “economic order” and fines of up to 10 million reals ($1.8 million) for the use of “manipulated” content to “ridicule” political candidates, paid to the affected candidate by the candidate determined to have “benefited” from so-called ridicule.10 Criminal penalties for online speech have been dropped in the revised versions of the text presented since. The penalties that remain are for platforms found in noncompliance with the revised law; instead of criminal penalties, these consist of fines of up to 10 percent of the platforms’ revenues in Brazil or up to 50 million reals ($9.6 million), or the temporary suspension of their services in the country (see B3, C4, and C6).11

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 3.003 6.006

Online journalists and bloggers reporting on corruption or controversial topics face a pattern of legal threats, including for alleged defamation.

Reporters for online outlets face arrests, detentions, and criminal charges in connection to defamation suits in retaliation for their digital activities. In September 2021, police arrested sports blogger Paulo Cezar de Andrade Prado, acting on an arrest warrant issued in February, to enforce a five-month prison sentence that had been handed to him in March 2018, when he was first convicted.1 The conviction was based on a criminal defamation suit filed against Prado in 2016 by business owner Paulo Sérgio Menezes Garcia for an article Prado had published about political donations made during the 2014 and 2016 elections by the claimant and his company.2

In February 2022, state Attorney General Jarbas Soares Júnior filed a criminal defamation complaint and civil lawsuit against Thiago Herdy, a reporter for online news outlet UOL, for an article Herdy had written the month prior. The complainant reportedly sought to prosecute Herdy for “crime against honor,” as the article alleged that Soares Júnior had requested that the state include compensation for a project in a town inhabited by his family members in a recent settlement from a mining company. The complaint’s broad reference to “crime against honor,” of which there are three types in the penal code (see C2), means that prosecutors can choose which charges to pursue, if any.3 Another UOL journalist, Juliana Dal Piva, was ordered to pay 10,000 reals ($2,000) to Bolsonaro’s personal lawyer, Frederick Wassef, in June 2022, after the coverage period. The fine was for publishing an “unauthorized” threatening text she received from Wassef in July 2021 in her UOL column (see C7).4

During the previous coverage period, in May 2021, police launched a criminal slander investigation into Leandro Demori, executive editor of The Intercept Brasil. Demori reported that the investigation, which stemmed from his reporting on a deadly police operation in an Intercept Brasil newsletter published by the editor earlier that month and tweets about the newsletter, was an effort to intimidate him.5

During the previous coverage period, the weaponization of the National Security Act to silence political criticism and opposition online spiked, much to the concern of civil society groups (see C2). 6 Federal police conducted an average of 11 investigations under the law per year before Bolsonaro was president; in the first 45 days of 2021 alone, they reportedly conducted more than 10 investigations under the law.7 It was used particularly frequently to open investigations against critics of Bolsonaro’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic, including journalists,8 activists,9 and opposition leaders.10 In March 2021, for instance, famous YouTuber Felipe Neto had the National Security Law invoked against him after he called the president “genocidal” in a YouTube broadcast. The law was used to compel Neto to give testimony about the alleged offense, but the case was dismissed two days later due to public disapproval.

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 2.002 4.004

The constitution explicitly forbids anonymity online.1 Although in practice anonymous speech online is common, some judges have occasionally referred to the constitution as a basis for limiting it. Other judges have upheld anonymous speech on the grounds that it is important for free expression and privacy, ruling that anonymous posts are protected so long as they can be technically traced through internet protocol (IP) addresses. The STJ has held that identification through an IP address is a “reasonably effective means for identification” and corresponds to an “average diligence” expected from internet providers.2

Several legal provisions also restrict online anonymity in Brazil. Real-name registration is required for individuals or legal entities in order to purchase mobile phones or to access private internet connections, although the use of pseudonyms in discussion forums across the web is common. Lawmakers have pushed for restrictions on anonymity regarding public internet access points, such as LAN houses, in order to prevent cybercrimes. Legislation of this kind already exists in states such as São Paulo,3 while other proposed bills that seek to oblige users to identify themselves when accessing the internet or social media remain under consideration.4

There are no restrictions on the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and Tor browsers in Brazil. The Supreme Court orders banning Telegram in March 2022 reportedly established a fine for those “using technological subterfuge” to continue communicating through the app, effectively barring the use of VPNs to circumvent the ban (see B1, B2, and B3).5 This fine, like the broader blocking order, was not ultimately implemented.

Amid public discussions about fake news and the prominent Supreme Court investigation into government-affiliated disinformation networks, lawmakers drafted legislation, since revised, that would have required mandatory identification of users. The original version of the June 2020 “fake news” bill (PLS No. 2630/2020) set a regime for users’ legal identification, enabling social networks and private messaging apps to identify each user through verification of their national identity cards. 6 A revised version of the text, released in October 2021, no longer set a legal identification regime, though other provisions threatening privacy remained (see C5 and C6).7

Brazilian law does not place restrictions on encryption. The LGPD strengthens the adoption of encryption policies,8 and some legal analysts have interpreted recent Supreme Court decisions in defense of privacy and data protection as suggestive of a judiciary favorable to protecting encryption.9 While the original fake news bill would have required private messaging services to store for three months the traceability data of messages that went viral, defined as those forwarded by more than five users and that reached at least 1,000 accounts, the revised version, released in October 2021, dropped the traceability mandate.10

Threats to encryption remain in pending Brazilian legislation, however. Digital rights organizations were concerned about proposed reforms, published in April 2021, to the Code of Criminal Procedure that would oblige internet application providers to assist law enforcement in intercepting communications. Companies with robust security protections, including end-to-end encryption, could consequently be forced to introduce security flaws into their systems as a “back door” for law enforcement.11

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3.003 6.006

Brazil has a history of improper surveillance of private communications, particularly targeting social movements and activists. Civil society organizations routinely denounce the government’s lack of transparency surrounding its surveillance operations, operations that are frequently justified as tools to combat crime.1

Since the beginning of Bolsonaro’s presidency, and especially in the first half of 2021, Brazil has seen an increase in social media monitoring of activists and members of the political opposition.2 A December 2020 report by a communications company hired by the Ministry of Economy was leaked that unveiled the names, email addresses, and political positions of journalists and influencers deemed government detractors, as well as strategies to neutralize them.3

Reports that the Brazilian Information Agency constantly monitors social networks have also emerged. In June 2020, the Ministry of Justice’s Secretariat of Integrated Operations (SEOPI) allegedly produced a report on “Actions by Antifa Groups and Anti-Fascist Policemen.” The secretive unit had monitored 579 federal and security officials and three university professors, all known to be critical of Bolsonaro’s government, and further compiled dossiers consisting of names, photos, and social media accounts.4

Separately, in April 2019, the newspaper Estado de São Paulo reported that the government had hired a firm to monitor conversations about Bolsonaro on social networks. Services included identifying possible viral posts that would hurt the government and monitoring hashtags and commonly used words. How the data was being used remained unclear.5

Despite the existence of several safeguards in the telephone interception law (No. 9.296/1996), there are concerns regarding their judicial interpretation and implementation.6 Infiltration through online platforms and political monitoring of social networks by the government remain common practices.7

An October 2019 presidential decree established a Citizen’s Basic Register (Cadastro Base do Cidadão), which consists of a centralized database of citizens’ data, ranging from health records to biometric information, held by federal bodies. Permission from Brazilians to share their data among various federal agencies is not required, nor are they able to track their information. No limits were imposed on the sharing of citizens’ health information, and the Central Data Governance Committee (CCGD), which regulates the register, lacks representatives from civil society, academia, and businesses. Critics say the register threatens privacy rights, in conjunction with existing surveillance technologies.8

Brazil has no regulation on the use of malware for lawful surveillance practices. In a 2018 report by Citizen Lab, a Canadian internet watchdog, Brazil is listed as one of 45 countries worldwide in which devices were likely breached by Pegasus, targeted spyware developed by the NSO Group, an Israeli technology firm. Pegasus is known to be used by governments to spy on journalists, human rights defenders, and the political opposition, though whether the Brazilian government is a Pegasus client is unclear. In May 2021, media outlet UOL reported on interference from Councilman Carlos Bolsonaro, the president’s son, in the government’s bidding process for Pegasus spyware. UOL sources reported that the councilman sought to reduce the military’s intelligence powers by excluding relevant bodies from the negotiations, instead expanding the surveillance capabilities of the Ministry of Justice and the federal police, over which he holds significant influence.9

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 4.004 6.006

The Marco Civil imposes obligations on internet connection providers to keep records of their users’ connection logs for 12 months, and for application providers to keep records of access for six months.1 In a landmark elevation of privacy rights, Brazilian lawmakers enshrined the protection of personal data in the constitution in February 2022.2

Regulations decreed in May 2016 clarified security measures to be taken by providers regarding log-keeping, including how authorities must request users’ data from intermediaries; the level of technical security said intermediaries must adopt to safeguard logs from being leaked; and other identification and security procedures to be undertaken by the professionals responsible for handling said data, such as the obligation for individual identification and the use of two-factor authentication.3

Beyond the Marco Civil, Law No. 12.850/2013 on organized crime obliges telecommunications companies to retain data regarding the origin and destination of phone calls for five years.4 Anatel resolutions also establish obligations on the retention of metadata by landline and mobile service providers.5

Digital-rights advocacy organizations have largely supported new data protection legislation. The LGPD was approved by Congress in August 2020, after significant delay, though sanctions for noncompliance in the form of monetary fines up to 2 percent of a company’s revenue did not go into effect until August 2021.6 The February 2022 amendment making personal data protection a constitutional right brought the LGPD to the constitution.7 The National Data Protection Authority (ANPD), the body in charge of enforcing the law, was given independent status in June 2022, after the coverage period, per a provisional decree.8

The most recent version of the draft fake news bill would expand data retention requirements for app providers, seeking to enable identification of the user of an IP address. This provision has been criticized by digital rights organizations for posing a threat to user privacy.9 Draft bill 2418/19, introduced in April 2019, would oblige ISPs to monitor user data for potential terrorist activities and heinous crimes and share relevant information with authorities. In addition, intelligence and security agents, with authorization from a military court, could access phone and internet networks to analyze information about terrorist and potential attacks.10

In December 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that internet application providers must store users’ logical port data, which can be used to identify them, and provide such data if there is a court order. However, providers will be able to submit evidence on the technical feasibility of that requirement.11

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 1.001 5.005

Threats, intimidation, and violence against online journalists and bloggers constitute a major restriction on freedom of expression and human rights in Brazil. In recent years, hostility against journalists and the media has escalated amid deepening political polarization.1

Murders in potential retaliation for online speech, especially from journalists, are sometimes reported in Brazil. In February 2022, Givanildo Oliveira was fatally shot by an unidentified individual (see B4). Oliveira was the founder and journalist of online outlet Pirambu News, which reports on local crime and policing on its website and social media pages; he had been threatened against publishing information on local criminals.2

Online journalists also commonly face other forms of physical violence in potential reprisal for their reporting. In July 2021, cofounder of news site Moju News and journalist Jackson Silva was shot multiple times by two unidentified men hiding outside his home. Silva, who hosts a weekly news program posted on his outlet’s Facebook and YouTube pages, was in stable condition after undergoing multiple surgeries. On the day of the attack, Silva had covered local arrests and anti-drug operations, among other topics, on his program.3 Arson attacks against the homes and cars of online journalists, potentially in reprisal for their reporting, were also recorded during this and the previous coverage period.4

Physical attacks, though frequently perpetrated by unidentified actors, have also been leveled by individuals associated with the state. 5 In May 2022, Alexandre Megale, a journalist and the founder of YouTube news channel Canal Sul das Gerais, was hit with rocks by a local city council member, causing Megale to briefly pass out. Megale reported that he believed the attack was for mentioning a 16-year jail sentence served to the official in a broadcast on his channel.6

Bolsonaro and his supporters use social media to harass journalists. In July 2021, UOL journalist Juliana Dal Piva received a threatening text from President Bolsonaro’s personal lawyer, Frederick Wassef, in which he called her an enemy of the homeland, among other insults. Though the message did not mention a specific piece of Dal Piva’s work, UOL’s podcast had published an episode that day containing parts of an interview she had conducted with Wassef for reports the website published on alleged corruption involving Bolsonaro and his family.7 She was ordered to pay a fine to Wassef for “unauthorized” publishing of the text in her UOL column in June 2022 (see C3).8

Journalists who are women and members of the LGBT+ community in Brazil face heightened levels of online harassment and intimidation. Reporting from RSF in April 2022 outlined the prevalence and impact of such violence, noting misogynistic or sexually tinged online attacks to be the third most common type of online attack against women and LGBT+ journalists surveyed, following the use of hostile language and attacks on or disqualifications of their work.9 According to the report, 42 percent of women journalists have experienced online violence because of their profession. Women journalists are also frequent targets of disinformation and smear campaigns by pro-government voices (see B5). Between March and June 2021, researchers found that Bolsonaro supporters mobilized behind anti-media hashtags on Twitter to target outlets critical of the government, and especially to single out female journalists, with online attacks. Most of these attacks were traced back to a relatively small number of accounts, though 20 percent of the tweets were automated.10

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 2.002 3.003

Score Change: The score improved from 1 to 2 because news outlets and human rights organizations did not report being targeted with technical attacks, unlike in prior coverage periods.

Cyberattacks are frequent and often target government institutions, public utilities providers, and businesses. Websites belonging to news outlets and civil society groups have been disrupted by technical attacks in the past.

Government institutions continued to experience cyberattacks during the coverage period. In December 2021, the website of the national health ministry was targeted with a cyberattack, during which hackers took down several online systems, causing the government to delay the implementation of new health requirements for travelers entering Brazil.1 In April 2022, the Rio de Janeiro finance department was hit with a ransomware attack. A ransomware group known as LockBit claimed to have stolen about 420 GB of data in the attack and threatened to leak the data if not given a payment.2 Cyberattacks against government institutions also occurred during the previous coverage period. In the weeks preceding the November 2020 municipal elections, the TSE’s systems were the target of more than one attempted attack in what was believed to be an attempt to discredit the institution.3 One of the attacks resulted in a leak of the personal data of TSE staff.4

The websites of investigative news outlets and rights organizations suffered sustained distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks during the previous coverage period. In March and April 2021, online women’s rights news portal Portal Catarinas suffered a series of DDoS attacks that rendered the site inaccessible for several hours a day over the course of a week. On the day the attacks began, Portal Catarinas had posted a critical article about proposed legislation in the Senate to offer rape survivors money to forego an abortion.5 The website of investigative news outlet and human rights organization Repórter Brasil was targeted by DDoS attacks from unidentified users for nearly a week in January 2021. The attacks forced the outlet offline multiple times, during which their general contact email also received two anonymous messages threatening continued attacks unless the outlet removed all reporting from 2003 to 2005. Their reporting from that time covered labor conditions, human trafficking, gold mining, and a hydroelectric plant.6

Brazilian authorities have made some efforts to increase cybersecurity and invest more resources in overcoming current obstacles. Since 2008, Brazil has engaged in a multistakeholder debate to develop its cybersecurity agenda, which resulted in the opening of a National Cyber Defense Command and a National School for Cyber Defense, which prepares military personnel in the use of cybertools for the sake of national defense.7

On Brazil

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    73 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    65 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Free
  • Networks Restricted

    No
  • Websites Blocked

    No
  • Pro-government Commentators

    Yes
  • Users Arrested

    Yes