Google’s operations head in Brazil was arrested by the country’s police Wednesday following the company’s refusal to obey a court order to remove YouTube video in violation of Brazil’s strict electoral laws.
After detaining the head of Google Inc.’s Brazil’s Federal Police then released him Thursday after he agreed to return to face charges related to two videos posted on the company’s YouTube site.
Fabio Jose Silva Coelho was taken to the federal police headquarters in Sao Paulo state, where he signed a document agreeing to face the charges, a spokesman for the police said.
A court in Mato Grosso do Sul state had asked for Mr. Coelho to be detained after the firm didn’t take down two YouTube videos that criticized a candidate for mayor in the city of Campo Grande.
The federal police said Mr. Coelho was detained for disobeying a court order under the country’s electoral laws. The alleged infraction is considered a minor crime and the executive faces up to one year in jail if found guilty, the police said.
A spokesman for Google said the firm will appeal the court ruling because it isn’t responsible for content uploaded to the website. An appeal hadn’t been filed as of late Wednesday, a spokeswoman for the Mato Grosso do Sul court said.
The detention followed a separate court order late Tuesday telling YouTube to remove versions of an anti-Islam film from its local website within 10 days. The National Union of Islamic Entities, or UNI, sued Google’s Brazilian unit, demanding that all versions of the now-infamous “Innocence of the Muslims” film be removed.
Google faced difficult decisions amid violent protests in Libya and Egypt that were allegedly tied to the 13-minute YouTube video ridiculing the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Google executives took the unusual step of unilaterally blocking access to the video in Libya and Egypt, hoping to quell the violence. The move didn’t work.
Libyan officials and security analysts later said Islamist militants may have hijacked protests to make a broader political statement, launching a grenade attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three of his colleagues. Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and India all requested that Google remove the contentious clip from local YouTube sites, saying it violated local laws. Google complied.
Brazilian Judge Gilson Delgado Miranda said in his decision that Google will be fined 10,000 Brazilian will charge ($4,926) per day if it doesn’t comply with the order. A spokesman for Google in Brazil said Google has not yet been notified of the judge’s ruling.
Google, which has long tried to adhere to free-speech principles for its Web services, has gotten into numerous legal headaches outside of the U.S. over results that appear in its popular Web-search engine and for videos posted on its YouTube site. Google has said it removes YouTube videos only when specifically requested to do so by local governments or courts for legal reasons–and only in the 47 nations in which YouTube has a local Website. YouTube has a localized site in Brazil.
In its most recent transparency report, Google said content-removal requests in Brazil are high because of the popularity of its Orkut social-networking site. The firm received 194 requests to remove content in the July-December 2011 period, fully or partially complying with 54% of the requests. That was down from 263 requests in the same period of 2010, with the company complying with 76% of the requests.