A decision this week by the Court of Appeals of São Paulo dominated local news on Internet liability, triggering passionate discussions amongst Brazilian internet platforms.
So what is all the fuss about? Basically, Brazilian Facebook users should now be especially aware of which Facebook posts they “share” and “like”, as they may be held jointly liable for damages caused by the contents of the material they thereby display to other users.
The story behind the case is relatively simple. A veterinarian who found his professional abilities grossly criticized’ through a Facebook post decided to sue not only the person who originally posted the offensive content, but also a woman who had “shared” the original post, thereby displaying it to other users. Surprisingly, the veterinarian decided not to sue Facebook, the intermediary, as is usually common in similar cases.
Because no evidence was presented to sustain that the veterinarian had actually committed professional malpractice, the Court found both defendants liable for offending the veterinarian’s honor and for damaging his professional reputation.
According to the Court of Appeals’ Judge who wrote the opinion, those who “share” offensive content should be prepared to also be liable for the consequences of disseminating such information.
The veterinarian was awarded twenty thousand Brazilian Reais (roughly eight thousand dollars) as compensation for moral damages.
Despite the repercussion, the decision is still not final since defendants may attempt to appeal the case to the Brazilian Superior and Supreme Courts of Justice.
The author of this blog post, Diego Spinola, is an LLM candidate at Stanford Law School and a qualified Brazilian attorney. He can be reached at dspinola at stanford.edu.