Google Fighting Brazilian Court Order to Hand Over Orkut Records

Google Inc. (GOOG) will file a motion in response to a Brazilian judges' deadline to turn over information on users of the company's social networking service Orkut, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

On Aug. 22, Federal Judge Jose Marcos Lunardelli gave Google's Brazilian affiliate until Sept. 28 to release information needed to identify individuals accused of using Orkut to spread child pornography and engage in hate speech against blacks, Jews and homosexuals or face daily fines of $23,000.

Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost said the company would instead file a brief in court explaining why it can not comply with the judge's order.

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"We have and will continue to provide Brazilian authorities with information on users who abuse the Orkut service, if their requests are reasonable and follow an appropriate legal process," said Frost, who was in Sao Paulo for the court date.

"It is and always has been our intention to be as cooperative in the investigation and prosecution of crimes as we possibly can, while being careful to balance the interests of our users and the request from the authorities," she added.

Google claims that its Brazilian affiliate cannot provide the information because all the data about Orkut users are stored outside Brazil at the company's U.S.-based headquarters.

Google maintains that it is open to requests for information from foreign governments as long as the requests comply with United States laws and that they are issued within the country where the information is stored, Frost said.

In August, Lundarelli dismissed that argument, writing in his decision that "it is not relevant that the data are stored in the United States, since all the photographs and messages being investigated were published by Brazilians, through Internet connection in national territory."

The company says that it has already complied with 40 similar requests made by Brazilian authorities.

In a case, that the company says is not related to the lawsuit, this week Google took eight Orkut communities off-line at the request of the Brazilian government.

The company says those communities, which advocated drunk driving by minors, the pirating of cable television, and illegal drug use, did not comply with Orkut's terms of service, which state it is prohibited to "promote or encourage illegal activity."

Named after Turkish software engineer Orkut Buyukkokten, Orkut is an invitation-only service run by Google that lets members discuss a wide range of subjects in Internet forums, or "communities."

The service is more popular in Brazil than in any other country, with some 8 million users — representing about a quarter of all Brazilians who have Internet access.