Minister Alexandre de Moraes of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF) Wednesday fined messaging app Telegram 1.2 million reals ($236,495) for failing to comply with judicial orders to suspend five accounts supporting former President Jair Bolsonaro in connection with the January 8 storming of state institutions.In an event reminiscent of the January 6, 2020 attack on the US Capitol, crowds supporting Bolsonaro infiltrated and vandalized the country’s National Congress, STF, and presidential palace buildings one week after the inauguration of left-wing President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. An STF inquiry into the storming resulted in an order directing Telegram to take down five accounts within two hours. These accounts are linked to at least three right-wing creators: congressman-elect and YouTuber Nikolas Ferreira, podcaster Bruno ‘Monark’ Aiub, and educator and media personality Paula Marisa, each of whom boasts thousands of social media followers. The court also directed Telegram to block an account named ‘Patriotas’ (Patriots). Telegram would incur a daily fine of 100,000 reals for non-compliance.Telegram filed an interlocutory appeal against the order and requested the court to specify the illicit content with links so they may be blocked without taking down entire profiles. While it claimed “partial compliance” with the orders related to Aiub and Marisa, and stated “Patriotas” had already been banned pursuant to a previous order, it had not blocked Ferreira’s account. Notably, Ferreira won 1.47 million votes in the October 2022 election, the highest of all federal legislative candidates.In his ruling, Moraes noted there was no justification for Telegram’s failure to fully comply with the order since Telegram’s appeal did not stay it. He stated although “freedom of expression” is constitutionally protected, it could not be “confused with impunity for aggression.” Moraes held that preventive civil and criminal action was necessary to prevent the dissemination of hate speech, fake news and provocations against public order caused by these accounts. Moreover, Moraes found Telegram’s “malicious non-compliance” signaled agreement and collaboration with the crimes under investigation. Since 12 days had passed since the order to suspend these accounts, Moraes ordered Telegram to pay 1.2 million reals within five days.Earlier in 2022, Moraes ordered internet platforms and providers to suspend Telegram for failing to comply with orders to take down accounts accused of spreading disinformation. However, he lifted the suspension order in two days following an apology to the court from Telegram founder Pavel Durov and the removal of an account supporting Bolsonaro. An inquiry by Moraes also led to the recent arrest of Anderson Torres, former Minister of Justice and Public Security under Bolsonaro, for his “connivance” in the storming.

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