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YouTube forced to pull controversial political video in Brazil

YouTube said today that it has reluctantly removed a video in Brazil that was critical of a mayoral candidate in Campo Grande.

"[We have] learned that our final legal appeal has been denied and so now we have no choice but to block the video in Brazil," Fabio Coelho, country director of Google Brazil, wrote in a translated blog post. "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."

Coelho was detained by Brazilian authorities last week after Google refused to remove the offending video from its YouTube service, but was released after he agreed to cooperate. The video in question accused Campo Grande candidate Alcides Bernal of "instigating abortion, drunkenness, physical injury of a minor, illicit enrichment, and contempt as well as prejudice against the underprivileged" - which violates the country's electoral law.

In his blog post, Coelho acknowledged that allowing YouTube to function as a platform for free speech around the world can be difficult given that different countries have different ideas of what free speech should entail.

"If a video is illegal in a particular country - and we have a local version of the service there, as in Brazil - we will restrict access to it, after receiving a valid court order or government complaint," Coelho wrote. "Because we are deeply committed to free expression, we often push back on requests that we do not believe are valid."

Google did just that with the mayoral candidate video, arguing that it should remain online. But while it was waiting for a decision on the appeal, an arrest warrant was issued for Coelho, and eventually, the appeal was rejected.

"Ironically, the user who published one of the videos has now removed it and closed their account - showing just what a chilling effect these episodes can have on free speech," Coelho wrote.

"Despite all this, we will continue to campaign for free expression globally - not just because it's a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people," Coelho concluded. "As Article 19 of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, 'Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'"

This is not the first time Google has landed in hot water over a mayoral candidate video in Brazil. Last month, a court ordered the arrest of Google exec Edmundo Luiz Pinto Balthazar after YouTube refused to remove a video that mocked someone running for mayor in Paraíba, the Guardian reported. That order was later overturned.

The Guardian also noted that a court in Sao Paulo recently gave YouTube 10 days to remove the controversial anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims from its site.