Photo: Duc Dao
The law, signed by President Dilma Rousseff on April 23, is “a victory for Web freedom in Brazil—and around the world,” wrote Hannah Draper, Program Manager, Open Society Information Program, in an open e-mail letter.
The bill protects online privacy, free expression, and net neutrality. In this story, Draper spoke with 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.
Q - What are digital civil rights? Why are they important to an open society?
A - 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.
Q - What is the Marco Civil?
A - The "Marco Civil da Internet" is legislation that 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.
Q - What would digital civil rights look like in Brazil without the Marco Civil?
A - 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.
The story continues here.