Tech Roundup: Brazilian Congress’ crackdown on online content

. Aug 14, 2020
Tech Roundup: Brazilian Congress' crackdown on online content Photo: Lightspring/Shutterstock

You’re reading The Brazilian Reports weekly tech roundup, a digest of the most important news on technology and innovation in Brazil. This week’s topics: Brazilian members of Congress resort to lawsuits to force the removal of content online; the country’s first ‘bug bounty’ startup; and a biotechnology firm introduces biological control to fight ticks among cattle. 

One in three Brazilian lawmakers filed lawsuits to remove online content

Over one-third of members of Congress

have gone to court to request the removal of content from blogs, media outlets, and social media. The figure comes from a report by the Brazilian Association for Investigative Journalism (Abraji), in partnership with newspaper Folha de S.Paulo. </p> <p><strong>By the numbers.</strong> Brazil has 594 members of Congress —&nbsp;513 representatives and 81 senators. And 233 of them have filed a combined 479 lawsuits trying to strike down online content.</p> <ul><li>354 cases came from lower house members, 293 of which were for &#8220;libel.&#8221;</li><li>87 percent of lawsuits are against a journalism blog, media outlet, or social media profile.</li></ul> <p><strong>Plaintiffs.</strong> Trying to use the justice system against unwanted reports is a move that is common to all sides of the political spectrum. There is no particular trend associated with either the left- or right-wing.</p> <p><strong>Why it matters. </strong>Congress is about to decide on the so-called &#8220;Fake News&#8221; bill —&nbsp;while clearly being interested parties in the discussion. Experts have warned that the bill raises serious <a href="">threats to freedom of speech</a>.</p> <ul><li>&#8220;If, in the absence of a law, many public agents resort to the Judiciary to request the exclusion of content in the virtual environment, the legal command to moderate content established by the [Fake News Bill] might be the definitive seal to weaken freedom of expression,&#8221; <a href="">wrote</a> Abraji lead counselor Juliana Fonteles.</li></ul> <p><strong>Bill. </strong>After passing in the Senate, the &#8220;Fake News&#8221; bill is currently pending before the lower house. Speaker Rodrigo Maia, however, guarantees that the matter will not go to a floor vote before an extensive cycle of debates with experts and lawmakers.&nbsp;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Brazil gets first &#8220;bug bounty&#8221; startup</h2> <p>Bug bounty programs are a way to &#8220;crowdsource&#8221; the hunt for vulnerabilities in online systems. Around the globe, thousands of organizations offer rewards to hackers, developers and researchers who are able to flag security flaws —&nbsp;allowing companies to fix them before major breaches occur. In Brazil, bug bounties are not common, with only one startup, BugHunt, present in the sector.</p> <p><strong>How it works. </strong>Hackers can sign up to the platform for free and choose a task from a public list of bounties — with some assignments, called &#8220;private bounties,&#8221; being available only for experts verified by BugHunt or invited by the client company. Verification depends on an expert&#8217;s record on the platform.</p> <ul><li>BugHunt told <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong> there are 1,500 enrolled security experts, with a growth rate of roughly 250 new &#8220;ethical hackers&#8221; per month. Around 270 vulnerabilities were identified by the platform recently, says the startup.&nbsp;</li></ul> <p><strong>Room to grow. </strong>&#8220;Brazilian companies did not have a national bug bounty platform and many firms sought foreign platforms to create their bounty programs,&#8221; CEO Caio Telles told <strong>The Brazilian Report.</strong> &#8220;But, in the current moment, it is much more interesting to start a program that pays in BRL, rather than in USD or EUR,&#8221; he adds. Having Brazilian experts is also an advantage, as they have a better understanding of business rules, current legislation, and other particularities, Mr. Telles explained.&nbsp;</p> <ul><li>Brazil is <a href="">one of the top 5 countries in the world for ‘credential stuffing’</a> cyberattacks against financial services in 2019, according to a report by content delivery network and security solutions firm Akamai.&nbsp;</li></ul> <p><strong>Rewards. </strong>Client companies choose the bounty they are willing to pay, with values ranging according to the size and complexity of its cybersecurity structure. While some companies start at BRL 500 (USD 92), others pay up to BRL 10,000&nbsp;— that is, up to ten times the minimum wage in Brazil.&nbsp;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>This Brazilian startup keeps cattle healthy</h2> <p>From the understanding that parasites in cattle have grown resistant to chemical control methods and that this form of control leaves behind harmful residues, a group of biologists based in Ribeirão Preto in São Paulo decided to develop a more sustainable method of contention. They created Decoy Smart Solutions, which they claim to be the first biotechnology startup to introduce the concept of biological control to the area of animal health in the world.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Motivation. </strong>Chemical methods, such as pesticides, leave residues which are toxic to animals, the environment and humans. &#8220;We were worried with the residues of these products in food, as Brazil is one of the biggest consumers of pesticides in the world,&#8221; explains Túlio Nunes, Decoy&#8217;s co-founder and COO. &#8220;But we were also worried with the health of the workers, those who treat the animals in the farms, as they are the ones in contact with chemical products the entire time,&#8221; he adds.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Products. </strong>The startup developed two products: one to be applied on the herd and the other on the pasture, which harbors 95 percent of ticks on a given property. The products use fungal spores, the &#8220;natural enemy&#8221; of ticks. The method uses pre-existing relations in nature to control the parasites, not requiring the use of chemical agents.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Regulation. </strong>The products have been submitted to the Agriculture Ministry for registration — a process which consists of two phases. Decoy&#8217;s products are in the first phase, focused on the registration of the place where the solutions will be produced. Mr. Nunes estimates between nine months and one year for the entire registration process to be concluded.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Partnerships. </strong>While they await the green light from regulators, Decoy has set up partnerships with producers, under which they provide solutions in exchange for information on the treatment and funding assistance for the development of the research. So far, the partnership scheme has reached 400 producers. The goal is to reach 1,000 by the end of the year.</p> <ul><li>&#8220;The idea came in a moment where we already had the technology available, but we could not market it. We could not stay inside the lab waiting for the technology to be registered to only then reach out to the final customer. Because of this, we used this partnership program to improve our product further,&#8221; explains Mr. Nunes.&nbsp;</li></ul> <p><strong>Investments</strong>. Decoy kicked off with public funding under a project approved by Fapesp, a research foundation in the state of São Paulo. Subsequently, the startup received the support of an angel investor. It has since raised resources from an investment fund, allowing the startup to build a factory and solidify its structure.&nbsp;</p> <hr class="wp-block-separator"/> <h2>Take note</h2> <ul><li><strong>Streaming</strong>. Disney announced that its streaming service will become available to Latin American countries — including Brazil — in November. Launched in November 2019, Disney+ features both classics and original productions, with 50 million-plus subscribers worldwide. The company has not mentioned pricing for Latin America. The region is expected to end 2020 with <a href="">62.2 million subscribers to streaming video services</a>, a 36-percent increase on last year’s figures.</li><li><strong>Delivery. </strong>On Thursday, <a href="">we explained</a> that the National Civil Aviation Agency (Anac) authorized food delivery giant iFood to begin tests on deliveries using drones. Two companies — Speedbird Aero and AL Drones — received licenses to begin trials, which will happen in Campinas, a city of 1 million people, located two hours north of São Paulo.</li><li><strong>Payments market. </strong>This week, payments startup Stone announced it was buying software solutions company Linx for BRL 6 billion. The former currently has nearly <a href=";infoid=54509&amp;sid=5">520,000 active clients</a>, while the latter has 70,000 clients and 100,000 card machines. The acquisition is the latest development <a href="">in a heated and eventful segment</a>, as explained by <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.</li><li><strong>Televised commerce. </strong>Media giant Grupo Globo, owner of TV station Globo, announced a partnership with home goods retailer Casas Bahia and with ad agency Young &amp; Rubicam. The trio will work to enable real-time sales on television, using the channel&#8217;s grid. Viewers would be able to use their remote controls to access products and buy items being used as props on shows.

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Laís Martins

Laís Martins is a Brazilian journalist pursuing a master's degree in Media and Globalization. Her coverage is focused on politics, human rights, and society. Previously, she worked for Reuters Brasil.

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