The Unbearable Lightness of Google

Tech giant denies its own arguments while manipulating news

Google's colorful offices in São Paulo are located on Faria Lima, an avenue that is a symbol of the country's financial universe and needs no introduction. If it is easy to imagine the stereotype of a Farialimer and its social and political pretensions, the technology giant does not seem to fit right into the region's design. The gang struggles on bicycles and scooters in an attempt to emulate Silicon Valley, but the cycle lane eventually ends. On the edge of this flat land, the heart-stroked megalopolis remains.

Google is on Faria Lima, mounted on a glass mastodon, perhaps because in another part of the city its modernity, the break time lattes, and the beanbags in the garden would not work. Or, worse, they would offend. Working in the comfort zone is the desire of any company. Last week, Google showed that it sees no limits in the endeavor to stay in it. A Folha's article showed that, on the eve of the voting of PL 2630 (Fake News Bill), which tightens the regulation of social networks, the search engine currently used by 97% of the population gave wide visibility to a kind of editorial on its own blog, criticizing the initiative.

Also according to the article, the NetLab of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) found that content links opposing the bill received privileged treatment in searches. Google denies it, but it seems clear that its system boosted news that favored it. What happened is serious, and here the discussion is not the content of the bill, its flaws, or its virtues.

All one needs to do is change the object of the dispute to understand the magnitude of the problem. Today it is legislation that affects the company, tomorrow it could be a candidate. The company has the right and the duty to express itself in the discussion of a law that targets its operation, but it cannot interfere in the flow of communication, or manipulate the news and even Congress.

Google is also not a vehicle for the press. If it were, it would be held accountable for what it does or fails to do, as it happens with this newspaper. By the way, this is exactly what Google does not want to be by fighting the Bill. Folha has legal responsibility for hundreds of journalists and this demands control and professionalism. Social networks don't want the burden of controlling millions of pseudo-journalists. They cannot, therefore, have the bonus of publishing editorials as if they were regular journalistic content.

It is undeniable that the 8th of January and the wave of violent acts in schools generated a stir in the debate. It is also difficult to disagree with the assessment that the bill embraces too many fronts. None of this, however, diminishes the urgency of a less wild-west-like internet.

Among the many opinions collected in recent days by the press, one of the most sensible was published in an article by the newspaper Valor Econômico. When commenting that the Federal Supreme Court will probably act if Congress does not vote on the new legislation, Ricardo Campos, from the University of Frankfurt, predicted another possibility: "If this bill does not pass now, in two years we will have an even tougher text in discussion in Congress. For that, all you need is a new crisis like the massacre in schools or the 8th of January". Google can do almost anything, but guaranteeing that this won't happen again is like believing that Faria Lima's world is round and doesn't end around the corner.


There is a specific section of the Marco Civil da Internet ( The Brazilian Civil Rights Framework of the Internet) that removes from social networks the possibility of being held responsible for the content of their users. The rule, according to some fundamentals for internet neutrality, safeguards social networks in the US. However, it has been debated in the country's Supreme Court and has also been considered in updated legislation, as in the case of the European Union.

The discussion also takes place in Brazil. Two actions in the Federal Supreme Court challenge the constitutionality of the rule and rest in the justices' toolbox. The last week has shown that it is about to open up easily. In the end, social networks will be regulated.


Folha published Jair Bolsonaro's attendance at the Agrishow event on the front page but did not report that Cargill, the American agribusiness giant, was denounced at the OECD for failures in the socio-environmental due diligence of its Brazilian soy chain. The sponsor of the action is ClientEarth, an environmental law entity that sues governments and companies. Its loudest case at the moment is against Shell directors. It wants to make them individually responsible for the company's failure to advance in the energy transition.

Europe's new anti-deforestation legislation will fuel the offensive against the wild wing of the sector in Brazil. The newspaper needs to take the ruralist group out of their comfort zone.

Translated by Cassy Dias