In a move that critics say impinges on the legitimacy of democracy, the Brazilian Congress has approved legislation allowing parties and candidates to force social media outlets to censor offensive or critical content by anonymous authors.
The law was included in a late vote in Congress of a set of rules for next year's general election, and was met with harsh criticism from groups defending civil rights and online freedom of expression.
Social media would have to provide the full name, identification and the equivalent of a tax file number of the author to keep the comment online, although it was not clear where they would need to send that information. Tax files numbers are routinely used in Brazil to identify people, even when making purchases in store in a move designed to curb tax evasion.
The legislation only requires a complaint be made to the social network about the content. It does not require a judicial order for candidates or parties to request the withdrawal of posts from websites and apps. It could still be blocked by Brazilian President Michel Temer, who is expected to sign the broader set of rules for 2018 elections by Saturday.
There was no immediate comment from the Temer administration regarding his likely action, however, the president is the target of much of the online criticism reflecting polls which have found popular support for his leadership dropped to as low as 6% last month.
That piece of legislation will transform candidates and parties into electoral judges, with powers to take out of the web any content they consider offensive to them, said Carlos Affonso Souza, a director at the Institute of Technology and Society, an organization defending a freer online environment.
Three associations representing newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations in Brazil released a joint statement calling the law a form of censorship.
Brazil's internet legal framework clearly states that only through a judicial order it is possible to force the withdrawal of online content, the entities said.
Congressman Aureo Lidio, a religious conservative from Brazil's Solidariedade Party, author of the restrictive legislation, defended the rule saying it would give transparency to online content. Freedom of expression is guaranteed, but it cannot be anonymous, he said.