Google to block YouTube video in Brazil after losing court appeal

The director of Google in Brazil was detained for disobeying a court order

Google said it had no choice but to block a political video in Brazil, after it lost a court appeal.

"We are deeply disappointed that we have never had the full opportunity to argue in court that these were legitimate free speech videos and should remain available in Brazil," said Fabio Coelho, country director of Google Brazil in a statement on Thursday.

A user who published one of the two controversial videos has now removed it and closed the account, showing "just what a chilling effect these episodes can have on free speech", Coelho added.

A warrant for the arrest of Coelho was issued by a court in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul for not obeying its order, while Google was waiting for an appeal to be heard. Coelho was also detained by police on Wednesday though the officials said that the arrest was only temporary as the crime had a "low potential to offend." Coelho would be released after he agrees in writing to appear in court, according to a police statement on Wednesday.

Google has maintained that it will block access to videos in countries where it is notified that a video is illegal and where the Internet company has launched YouTube locally. The company for this reason blocked earlier this month a controversial anti-Islam movie trailer in countries like India, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia, where it has local versions of the video-sharing site, but not in Pakistan or Bangladesh.

It however also blocked the video in Egypt and Libya citing the very sensitive situations in the two countries.

The U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans were killed earlier this month when a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was stormed by gunmen. U.S. embassies and consulates in some countries like Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan and Indonesia were also targeted in the protests against the trailer.

If a video is illegal in a particular country, and the company has a local version of the service, as in Brazil, Google will restrict access to it after receiving a valid court order or government complaint, Coelho said in the statement for which a translation in English was provided.

During an election season, it is usual for Google to receive court orders for the removal of videos that are critical of political candidates, and it has appealed on requests that it does not believe are valid, Coelho said.

In December last year, Google received an electoral court order in Brazil that resulted in the removal of four profiles from its Orkut social networking site for content related to political campaigns, the company said in its Transparency Report. Government requests for content removal are high in Brazil relative to other countries partly because of the popularity of Orkut in the country, Google said.

[Loek Essers in Amsterdam contributed to this report]

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John Ribeiro

IDG News Service

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