Like the United States, Brazil has recently been plagued by a crisis in online disinformation. After the country’s 2018 presidential elections, many Brazilians experienced a shock similar to that experienced by U.S. voters after the 2016 election of Donald Trump. The shock was the result of the election of Brazil’s far-right wing Jair Bolsonaro and his striking political ascent, which was fueled by supporters who mobilized online disinformation campaigns for Bolsonaro’s competitive advantage. During Brazil’s 2018 elections, Bolsonaro’s supporters employed these disinformation campaigns, which often preyed on Brazil’s poor, to gain a voting base in disadvantaged communities. Moreover, these disinformation networks created a polarized digital climate, helped incite the rapid spread of “fake news” in Brazil, and led to the rise of the extremist Bolsonaro.

To mitigate this problem of digital malfeasance, along with issues of digital inequality and data privacy concerns, the Brazilian government has recently advanced a series of internet laws. These laws seek to further democracy by advancing digital access and inclusion, promoting data privacy, and curbing the spread of online disinformation. This Essay examines the social, political, and historical context that led to the pursuit of these internet laws, how each law builds upon the foundations of its predecessor and discusses the relative strengths and weaknesses of each. In addition to this analysis, this Essay places a special emphasis on Brazil’s recent swell in online disinformation, and how these internet laws have attempted the seemingly contradictory effort of promoting digital access while simultaneously curbing the spread of fake news. In attempting to advance democracy through internet governance, this Essay argues that discourse should focus not only on legislation and policymaking, but also on grassroots efforts that advance effective inclusion on digital platforms to help further cyber civil rights.

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