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CICL Distinguished Int'l Speaker Series: 'Taking Aim at “Fake News”: Brazil’s Legislative Agenda for Online Democracy'

Wednesday, 27 October, 2021

Join the Center for International & Comparative Law at noon on Wednesday, Oct. 27, via Zoom, for a Distinguished International Speaker Series with Prof. Jeffrey Omari, assistant professor of Law at the Northern Illinois University College 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.

Please join via this Zoom link.

Jeffrey Omari is an Assistant Professor at Northern Illinois University College of Law (NIU). He has 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. 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.

Omari was formerly the Visiting Assistant Professor in the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Gonzaga University School of Law. In 2018, he earned a PhD in cultural anthropology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was also formerly a Law and Social Science Doctoral Fellow at the American Bar Foundation. Before pursuing his PhD, he practiced entertainment law in Atlanta and Los Angeles, respectively. Omari’s work has appeared in Law & Social Inquiry and PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, among other outlets. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois College of Law and a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College.

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