Brazilian Justice Minister Flavio Dino on Wednesday announced new restrictions on social media to combat an “epidemic” of assaults on children.
Dino said website administrators will be required to ban users who “are promoting or supporting attacks or violence against schools.”
Dino said social media platforms will be required to send data on users who share violent content to the police, in addition to blocking the users. Failure to comply could be punished with fines of up to $2.4 million and noncompliant websites could be shut down by federal authorities.
“There is an emergency situation which has generated an epidemic of attacks, threats of attacks (and) panic among families and in schools,” Dino declared.
The Brazilian crackdown includes international social media platforms. On Monday, the Brazilian Justice Ministry held a meeting with representatives from Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, Google, and other companies to demand the removal of “content supporting school attacks,” a category which evidently included news reports about such incidents because they could allegedly inspire copycat attacks.
Twitter immediately refused the request, noting the 270 user accounts Brazil wanted it to ban did not post any content that violated Twitter’s terms of service, since they were sharing information about crimes but not encouraging violence.
The campaign, which features images of the Twitter bird slathered in blood while its eyes ring up dollar signs, disappeared as a trending topic on Twitter itself despite attracting over 4 million views, leading to accusations that Twitter is suppressing it.
— emicida (@emicida) April 11, 2023
The most recent incident occurred on Wednesday, when a 14-year-old student attacked two nine-year-old girls with an axe in rural Farias Brito, severely injuring one of the victims. The assailant smuggled his weapon into a classroom to carry out the attack. He was overpowered by a teacher and handed over to the police. The seriously injured girl received surgery for a wound to her head and is recovering in intensive care.
Brazil was shocked by a savage attack on children that occurred on April 5, when a 25-year-old man with a hatchet stormed into a kindergarten class in the southern city of Blumenau to murder four children and injure four others.
The slain children included three boys and a girl, ages four to seven. Police said the attacker, who surrendered after the murders, apparently chose his victims at random.
Ten days before that, a 13-year-old student used a knife to murder 71-year-old science teacher Elisabete Tenreiro at the Thomazia Montoro public school in Sao Paulo. The perpetrator injured three other teachers and two students before being “immobilized” by a physical education teacher and taken into custody.
The axe-wielding Blumenau killer did not have any apparent motive, at least not that police were willing to make public. Details of the case have been kept under seal because the victims were minors.
The local police commissioner said on the day of the attack that it was “not related to any other criminal practice” and was “not coordinated, for example through social networks or conversations between criminals.” Brazilian media reported the suspect had a history of violent altercations, including an attempt to stab his stepfather.
Tenreiro’s murderer reportedly stabbed her from behind while wearing a skull mask. Other students at the school said he was angry with the teacher for intervening in a fight between himself and another student the previous week, and said he planned to get revenge against the elderly teacher.
There was no clear social media element to either case, but Blumenau Mayor Mario Hildebrandt complained about a wave of false threats of further attacks spread through social media after the kindergarten assault shocked the nation.
CBS News noted there were 16 “attacks or violent episodes” in Brazilian schools between 2000 and 2022, including a 2021 case similar to the Blumenau attack in which an 18-year-old man murdered three toddlers and a teacher at a daycare center with a knife.
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