Note from BW of Brazil: Overall, the availability of the internet has made our lives better and often easier in numerous ways. I remember the first time I had the experience of using the internet in my home. The first few days I must have spent about 14-16 hours searching for all sorts of things. It seemed that the internet literally put the whole world right at your fingertips! Years later came the introduction of social networking. I remember very well my participation in Orkut, a pre-Facebook Google-run social network that didn’t really take off in the US but gained a huge following of users in Brazil. I was hooked on Orkut for years as it was an open forum for people to express their opinions on a host of issues and allowing others to chime in whether they agreed with you or not. Some of those debates used to get pretty heated.
On Orkut, we saw numerous debates on the issue of race that showed the existence of strong divisions that Brazilians have long denied. I appreciated the debates and the brutal honesty people would display in expressing how they felt on certain topics. But as the internet and social media have brought a host of great things to our lives, it also brings out some regrettable things. Here at BW of Brazil, we’ve featured numerous samples of comments from social media (here, here) to capture how folks are feeling about a certain topic that featured on the blog. We’ve also featured samples of the racist tendencies that many Brazilians continue to insist is simply “in the head” of the victim. Today, we bring you yet another example of one of the ills that we must also deal with when opening our world to people we may not even know. Coincidentally, an article written by the victim of today’s post along with the photo in question was featured here back in August of 2013. Who would have ever thought her photo could be used in the manner that it was. But that’s the chance we all take when we share our lives on the World Wide Web.
Journalist of the Federal District has her photo published in a false post on the web: ‘For sale: a baby’
Police investigate ‘crime over the Internet’; victim says she sees racism and sexism. Two weeks ago, another journalist from the DF was the target of insults on social network.
By Mateus Rodrigues with contribution of Agência Brasil
The Civil Police of the Distrito Federal (DF or Federal District) is investigating offensive publications released on a social network on Monday (11) with a photo of journalist Raíssa Gomes, 25, who lives in the capital city of Brasília. The message was conveyed in a group that purchases and sales products in Salvador (Bahia) and uses a picture of her pregnant with the message “For sale a baby! R$50. As I didn’t find Cytotec [abortion drug banned in Brazil], me and my woman decided to sell the child.”
The post was published at 2pm on Monday. The occurrence was registered hours later at the 2nd precinct (Asa Norte). According to Raíssa, a friend who lives in Salvador saw the message and warned the Internet, minutes later. “I didn’t denounce it on the site itself, precisely so that it stayed up longer and I could register it. I’ve never experienced this on the internet,” she says.
The photo was taken in 2011 and shows the journalist nine months pregnant – the son was three years in November. She says that the picture illustrated a text to combat prejudice, published on the website of a black women’s collective in the federal capital.
“Libel, slander, defamation. I do not know how they apply the racial question, because nobody said ‘sua preta’ (you black), so for them this is not racism. But I feel like it’s racism” – Raíssa Gomes, journalist
“I wrote a text for the site Blogueiras Negras, dealing precisely with a case of racism I suffered because I was pregnant. I think it’s on Google, who knows what these people will search for. This profile doesn’t have any friend in common, nothing, nothing,” says Raíssa. She claims to believe that the author used a fake profile.
The Civil Police registered the case as “a crime committed via the Internet”, but the victim says she identifies elements of racism and sexism. “Libel, slander, defamation. I do not know how they apply the racial question, because nobody said ‘sua preta’ (you black), so for them this is not racism. But I feel like it’s racism,” says Raíssa.
As soon as she learned of the offenses, Raíssa contacted the journalist Cristiane Damacena also of Brasília, who suffered racist abuse in profile photo on a social network two weeks ago. Cristiane’s case is being investigated by the police, by the Secretariat of Policies to Promote Racial Equality of Presidency of the Republic and by the Public Ministry (MP) of the Federal District.
“As Cristiane went through it last week, I contacted her to learn how to deal with it. She said this, to take the prints, go to the station to register the occurrence, then go to the Public Ministry,” said Raíssa. “In her case, they went straight to the profile, it wasn’t something random. But imagine if I didn’t know anyone in this group, the post would stay up there. Maybe, I wouldn’t even know.”
The publication has been deleted from the site since 7pm. While the text was on the air, others criticized the publication and the alleged trafficking of children. “People if you don’t want your baby, after childbirth just go to a police station and hand over the child and inform them that you can not raise it,” write a site user.
“There were several comments believing it, calling me ‘a child killer’, saying that I will burn in hell. What I was most thinking was going to Salvador, right, enough. Imagine if someone identifies me, and says something on the street,” Raíssa said.
The journalist went to the police station accompanied by her father, the coordinator of Combating Racism of the Secretariat on Policies for Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, Carlos Alberto Santos. In November, the researcher claims to have been the target of racist and truculent approach by police officers in São Sebastião, in DF. He said the case “has not yet produced anything,” but it will be reopened by the public prosecutor.
The complaint was published on social networks. Santos claims he was handcuffed, searched and taken to the police station by four white police while returning home. Before the approach, they requested to pass in traffic, but the researcher says there was not enough space to back up.
“[At the police station], they put me in a headlock, of which disengaged me with relative ease, but two other agents came down the stairs of the station already with their weapons drawn. This agent put me in a choke hold and said that he would use force. I am taken to the location where the inmates are, and the same agent asks to handcuff me,” said Santos in the publication last year.
For the secretary of Racial Equality of the Federal District, Vera Araújo, “There is some dissatisfaction with the presence of blacks in environments that before were predominantly white. For us, that work within the secretariat and participate in the Movimento Negro, it’s very symptomatic: in the measure that some advances of the black population are being consolidated, with more space and social visibility, the reactions occur in a systematic and significant manner,” she said.
In 2014, the Núcleo de Enfrentamento à Discriminação (Center of the Combat of Discrimination) in the DF offered 47 complaints based on police investigations. According to the department of the MP, most of them referred to crimes of racism and injúria racial (racial injury/slur). In the first four months of 2015, 24 complaints have already been offered and can be converted into public criminal proceedings against the perpetrators.
In April, the 1st Turma Criminal do Distrito Federal (Criminal Panel of the Federal District) denied appeal and upheld unanimously the condemnation of the procurador federal Leonardo Lício do Couto for the crime of racism, based on comments posted on the Internet in 2007. The defendant was initially convicted in August of last year, but turned himself in Tribunal de Justiça (Court of Justice) of the Federal District and in the Superior Tribunal de Justiça (STJ or Superior Court of Justice). The sentence was maintained in both instances but could be appealed.
The messages with offensive content were published in a public procurement forum. According to the lawsuit, the then student self-entitled himself “skinhead” and preached hate of Jews, blacks and Northeasters in the texts published on the Internet. In an exchange of messages in 2007, another user questioned whether the comments were a joke, but the hypothesis was denied by Couto.
“Actually, I’m not just anti-Semitic skinhead. I hate Jews, blacks, and especially Northeasters;….. […] No, no. I mean I really hate (them). I hate the vermin of which I referred. The accused must belong to one of these groups that make up the scum of society,” said the published messages, which were attached to the lawsuit.