An Online Bill of Rights in Brazil

If we want to achieve the same standard of openness that underlies the existence of fundamental rights and civil liberties in society, we have to make sure these rights and protections exist online as well.
New legislation providing a bill of rights for internet users in Brazil was signed into law by President Dilma Rousseff on April 23. I spoke to Ronaldo Lemos, an expert on digital rights who helped create the original legislation. Lemos, formerly of Brazil’s Centre for Technology and Society, now works with Brazil’s Institute of Technology and Society. Both organizations are Open Society grantees.

What are digital civil rights? Why are they important to an open society?

Prior to the passage of this law, the digital civil rights of Brazilians—like net neutrality and the right to privacy and free expression online—were not explicitly guaranteed.

While it can be easy to take these rights for granted, a systematic, comprehensive, and democratic legislative effort is required to adapt these rights to the digital world. If we want to achieve the same standard of openness that underlies the existence of fundamental rights and civil liberties in society, we have to make sure these rights and protections exist online as well. In that sense, this is one of the most important challenges to an open society.

What is the Marco Civil?

The “Marco Civil da Internet” is a comprehensive law that essentially creates a bill of rights for the internet in Brazil. The legislation was originally drafted through an open, collaborative process with contributions from a variety of stakeholders—private individuals, civil society organizations, telecommunication companies, and government agencies all participated. Each contributor could see other comments and all perspectives were considered. 

The only drawback to the law is the requirement that both connection providers and service providers retain user data for a year and a half, though this is dependent on a court order. But this is better than the current situation, where user data is often stored for five years.

What would digital civil rights look like in Brazil without the Marco Civil?

Without the Marco Civil, freedom of speech in Brazil would consistently be under threat. For example, in 2007, a judge shut down YouTube for the entire country because a Brazilian model filed a lawsuit to block footage of her and her boyfriend in an intimate situation.  Another recent case involved a judge threatening to shut down Facebook because of a lawsuit between neighbors engaged in a dispute over a dog. Without the Marco Civil, there would be no safe harbors for free speech.

Why is the success of the Marco Civil important to the broader community?

The Brazilian Marco Civil runs counter to laws recently implemented in countries like Turkey and Russia which expanded the powers of governments to regulate the internet.

Brazil’s law can be a model for other countries. It sends a message that we need to encourage a vibrant and open public sphere online. The approval of the Marco Civil is a victory on behalf of all democracies. Brazil has taken a stand to actively protect an open and free internet. And that is a requisite for an open and free society as well.

What work lies ahead in Brazil regarding digital rights?

The Marco Civil was an extremely important step, but there is still a lot of work to do. Brazil does not have any data protection laws and Brazil’s freedom of information law needs to be expanded and deepened so that it takes privacy into account.

New laws guaranteeing free speech are also critical, as freedom of expression continues to be under threat in Brazil: Newspapers are being censored, journalists and bloggers are being killed, and draconian court decisions have led to the removal of web content during elections. 

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Unofficial english translation of the final version of Marco Civil da Internet (Civil Rights Based Framework for Internet) approved by the Federal Senate signed at NETmundial openning by Brazilian Republic President and published as Act nº 12.965/2014 at the Union Oficial Diary at abril, 24 2014 -> http://wp.me/p1rLww-5M

This is a great thing done towards enhancing good governance, transparency, and social accountability. Congratulations!

Good to start in our country....kudos to the movers!

Thank you for sharing this. This is a huge feat for Brazil, and yes, a shining example for our country and the rest of the world to follow. Thank you!

Good idea for the world to follow.

Absolutely this is great achievement for the Civil Society organizations in Brazil and My wish is that other government can emulate the same and have similar policies.
Congratulations for the achievement

Importante para Brasil y un ejemplo para América Latina!! Por ello estamos trabajando con las articulaciones de colectivos y redes de activistas en varios países!!

I attend this meeting in Brazil. The President signing the Bill. Every country in the world can replicate it, only then true online freedom and protection will be ensure with its governance.

Openness is like a day light. Societies can be active in the open system and they feel freer and safer too.The Brazilian bill of rights sheds light on their freedom of information exchanges.

I'm very glad about this necessary net neutrality law in Brazil. Currently Facebook and Youtube offer users different levels of security; and these obliviate the necessity of shutting them down.
I still think internet providers should maintain the right to charge subscribers for greater bandwith usage, such as video streaming. I'm uncertain if commercial interests should have the right to use more bandwith to deliver their data at greater cost. I don't mind as long as it doesn't noticeably slow down non-commercial traffic.

This are very good news or the rest of latinamerican countries. I hope that Mexico can replicate it. Currently, the mexican government is about to present a law that is against freedom speech. This means that the mexican government will be able to approve or dissaprove the content that we share or see on line. Also in public manifestations Mexican Government will be able to shut down the communications system, We urgent need to raise awarness to prevent this from happening, thus stoping the violence against great number of journalists.

I am highly glad hearing this. It is open world. Every body expect it. Civilians should enjoy freedom at every stage of life.

It is very good. Congratulations!

kudos to brazilians! I hope the same is replicated all the globe.

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