On May 18, 2022, Brazil’s Superior Electoral Tribunal (Tribunal Superior Eleitoral, TSE) issued a press release announcing that the TSE and the Federal Supreme Court (Supremo Tribunal Federal, STF) had signed an agreement to establish a program to combat fake news involving the judiciary and to disseminate information about the 2022 general elections. The signing of the agreement took place at an event announcing the partnerships of the STF’s Program to Combat Misinformation, which will involve 35 institutions, including class entities, public universities, and technology companies.
During the event, the president of the TSE, Minister Edson Fachin, was quoted as saying that “this is a time when it appears profitable, politically and economically, [for some factions in society] to contest science and reality, erode consensus and promote hostility and anti-civic culture on the basis of distorted or invented content, disseminated as if they were true and reliable.” The agreement between the two bodies is a response to this phenomenon constituting “a strategic institutional alliance between courts and relevant civil society entities to combat information fraud.” Fachin further stated that the initiative is also a program to defend democracy, which “is being challenged by the culture of fallacy,” and that “[t]o attack the STF is to attack the institutions of the rule of law, which are fundamental for social stability, legal security, respect and tolerance.”
According to the president of the STF, Minister Luiz Fux, the program does not intend to shield the judiciary from criticism, which must be held “accountable to society,” but its focus is to “be a channel for listening and helping to clarify doubts.” The program aims to prevent the proliferation of false information, such as “invented speeches by ministers, who did not even speak,” and “prevent people from getting confused about the competence of the Federal Supreme Court.”
The press release further mentions that the agreement reflects the importance the STF and TSE place on joining efforts to build a healthy and transparent information environment by discouraging the creation and dissemination of fake news and hate speech, with the tribunals undertaking together or separately activities aimed at raising awareness of the illegality and undemocratic character of disinformation practices. In addition, they will also act to disseminate correct information and services regarding the 2022 general elections and the functioning of the judiciary through official communication channels.
The Electoral Justice and the Superior Electoral Tribunal
The Electoral Justice is a branch of the judiciary composed of the TSE, the Regional Electoral Courts (Tribunais Regionais Eleitorais), the judges, and the electoral boards. It is responsible for organizing all stages of the Brazilian electoral process, from the registration of voters to the diplomacy of elected candidates.
The Electoral Justice and the TSE were created by Decree No. 21,076 of February 24, 1932. Five years later, the Constitution of 1937 abolished the Electoral Justice and assigned to the federal government (Union) the exclusive power to legislate on electoral matters. The Electoral Justice was restored on May 28, 1945, with the enactment of Decree-Law No. 7,586. The TSE, the highest body of the Electoral Justice, plays a fundamental role in the construction and exercise of Brazilian democracy. Its main powers are established by articles 118–121 of the Federal Constitution of October 5, 1988, and by the Electoral Code.