Facebook executives coach Brazil politicians before Internet vote

Fri Oct 25, 2013 12:44pm EDT
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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) - As Brazil threatens to impose strict new regulations on American Internet companies, Facebook offered some of its top politicians free advice this week on how to win "friends" and maximize "likes" on their webpages.

Facebook's tips on using social media came as politicians geared up for a 2014 general election and as Congress prepared to vote on legislation that could severely restrict the way companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google operate in Brazil.

After revelations of U.S. government spying on Brazilian citizens and companies, including President Dilma Rousseff, Brazil is rushing through legislation that would oblige Internet companies to store information about their Brazilian users in the country. The lower house of Congress votes on the measure next Wednesday.

Internet companies and technology experts say the demand would be costly and technically complicated.

With 76 million Facebook users, more than any other country outside the United States and possibly India, Brazil is a key market for the San Francisco-based social network. That also makes Facebook a powerful tool for Brazilian politicians Seeking to win new supporters.

"That's such a huge voting block of citizens who are getting a lot of their news and information from places like Facebook," said Katie Harbath, Facebook's global manager for politics and government engagement.

Harbath did not discuss Brazil's move to regulate Internet usage in her coaching sessions, but she conducted them with Bruno Magrani, the company's top lobbyist in Brasilia.

Harbath spent four days in capital instructing Brazilian lawmakers and staffers in packed congressional rooms on how to maximize the "likes" on their Facebook pages. She taught President Dilma Rousseff's online team how boost her social media presence.   Continued...

A man is silhouetted against a video screen with an Facebook logo in this photo illustration taken in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic