NIU Law Professor Jeffrey Omari presented, ‘Taking Aim at “Fake News”: Brazil’s Legislative Agenda for Online Democracy’ on October 27 as part of the Distinguished International Speaker Series for the Center for International & Comparative Law at the St. Louis University School of Law.
Like the U.S., 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 US 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 presentation 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 presentation 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 presentation argues that discourse should focus not only on legislation and policymaking, but also on grassroots efforts that advance concepts like digital literacy to help further cyber civil rights.
Professor Omari joined the NIU Law faculty in 2020. He teaches in the areas of constitutional law, privacy law, business associations and torts. He joins NIU Law with a rich interdisciplinary background; his research sits at the intersection of law, technology, and social science. His current work examines internet governance through the lens of Brazil’s cyber law, the Marco Civil da Internet (MCI). Through its promotion of internet access as a civil right, protection of net neutrality, and its call for openness in the online realm, the MCI seeks to foster democratic internet governance in Brazil. Professor Omari spent 18 months in that country conducting ethnographic fieldwork in two contrasting locations: the favelas (informal, low-income communities) of Rio de Janeiro and in Brazil’s top law school, Fundação Getúlio Vargas Direito.
Professor Omari was formerly the Visiting Assistant Professor in the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Gonzaga University School of Law. He was also formerly a Law and Social Science Doctoral Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. Before pursuing his Ph.D., he practiced entertainment law in Atlanta and Los Angeles. Professor Omari has published articles in the areas of internet governance and music law. He holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College.