YouTube videos send Google exec to jail

Despite appeals, Google's president of operations in Brazil was held personally accountable for the content of two videos that disparage a Brazilian mayoral candidate.

Mar 3, 2020, 2:15 am*


Fidel Martinez 

Fidel Martinez

A Google executive has been released from jail after spending a night in the slammer.

Fabio Jose Silva Coehlo—Google’s president of operations in Brazil— was incarcerated on Wednesday after the tech company refused to take down two YouTube videos that disparage a Brazilian politician.

Election laws in the South American country, enacted in 1965, ban attack ads that defame candidates on the verge of an election. The videos in question target Campo Grande mayoral candidate Alcides Bernal, accusing him of hiding documents and money laundering.

After deliberating for a week, Judge Flavio Peren determined that the videos were in violation of the election statutes and ordered Google—parent company of YouTube— to take them down.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company appealed the decision, claiming that as a platform they can’t be held responsible for content produced by others. This argument worked previously for Google in a similar situation, where another company executive—Edmundo Luiz Pinto Balthazar— was almost arrested over a YouTube video clip that mocked a different mayoral candidate.

“Google is not the intellectual author of the video,” wrote the judge of that case, “it did not post the file, and for that reason it cannot be punished for its propagation.”

Unfortunately for them, Peren didn’t buy the argument and had Coehlo arrested. The executive was released on Thursday after agreeing to return to court at a future, unspecified date.

This is yet another example of how laws written decades ago—in Brazil and across the globe—don’t properly address or factor in the emergence of the Internet. Earlier this year, Facebook was nearly banned in the South American country because of a page that allegedly slandered yet another politician.

Photo via Nuno Cardoso/Flickr

Share this article
*First Published: Sep 28, 2012, 9:53 am