A Supreme Court judge in Brazil ordered an investigation Friday of Google and Telegram over what he called the tech companies' "abusive campaign" against a controversial bill seeking to stem disinformation online.
Justice Alexandre de Moraes ordered federal police to open a probe of the two companies and their executives in Brazil, which has been embroiled in a divisive debate over what critics call the "censorship bill."
The legislation, introduced in 2020 to deal with a flood of disinformation online, is currently awaiting a vote in the lower house of Congress.
It shot to prominence earlier this year, after supporters of far-right ex-president Jair Bolsonaro ran riot in Brasilia on January 8, allegedly incited by social media disinformation claiming their candidate's 2022 election loss to leftist successor Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was fraudulent.
Supporters call the bill a badly needed defense against disinformation and online extremism.
But Bolsonaro supporters allege it would create an Orwellian "Truth Ministry" to censor citizens' views.
Tech companies also oppose the bill, which would regulate how they deal with certain kinds of content and make them hire external auditors.
This week, Google used its site to warn that the bill "seriously threatens free speech," while Telegram sent its more than 40 million users in Brazil a message calling it an "attack on democracy."
Moraes had already lashed out at big tech's use of its platforms to campaign against the bill.
On Wednesday he ordered Telegram to delete its anti-bill broadcast message or face a suspension.
Google also faced backlash.
Justice Minister Flavio Dino accused the US tech giant of "manipulating" search results to display content opposed to the bill more prominently -- a charge the company denied.
And consumer protection authorities ordered Google to balance its messages against the bill with "counter-propaganda" or face a fine of one million reais ($200,000) an hour.