BY NICOLE SOHN-On March 25, 2014, a majority of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies passed Brazil’s groundbreaking Internet governance bill, Marco Civil da Internet. While the bill must still go through the Federal Senate for consideration and back to the Chamber of Deputies before it can be sanctioned by President Dilma Rousseff, its proponents are confident that the Marco Civil might become law before next month’s NETmundial meeting.
The Marco Civil is an instrument of Brazilian federal legislation dating back to 2009 that guarantees Brazilian users civil rights in the use of the Internet. The bill, dubbed Brazil’s “Internet Constitution,” is essentially a charter of Internet rights setting forth principles, guarantees, rights, and obligations for the use of the Internet in Brazil.
Notably, Marco Civil was developed through an extensive public consultation process.The broadly inclusive drafting process, whereby an open online public helped shape the ideas and language reflected in the bill, is a “point of reference in international discussions on using online tools to foster democracy.” Marco Civil was available for public consultation from the end of 2009 to mid-2010, during which time 2,000 Internet users, ranging from individuals and universities to government and nongovernment entities, were allowed to comment on the text and add their opinions.
Marco Civil reflects a strong commitment to openness, accessibility, neutrality, and democratic collaboration on the Internet. Setting forth fundamental principles of Internet use in Brazil, Article 2 promotes the respect for freedom of expression, acknowledgment of the global scale of the network, its plurality and diversity, its openness and collaborative nature, free enterprise, free competition and consumer protection, human rights, personality development and citizenship exercise in digital media, and the network’s social purposes.
In Article 3, Marco Civil expands on its commitment to human rights and accessibility by laying out eight principles underlying a disciplining of Internet use in Brazil; this article guarantees freedom of expression, communication, and expression of thought, while simultaneously guaranteeing privacy and personal data protection, and the preservation of stability, security, and network functionality. Moreover, Article 3 declares that disciplining Internet use in Brazil ensures that players are held accountable, that free business models are promoted on the Internet, and that the participatory/collaborative purpose of the network is upheld.
The main provisions of the Marco Civil include data retention, net neutrality, intermediary liability, and rights and principles for Internet regulation in Brazil. A highly controversial privacy provision was included in the draft bill in 2013, after Snowden leaked secret NSA documents that revealed widespread data-gathering, including alleged spying on Brazilians. The privacy provision would force Internet companies to store all of Brazilians’ data within Brazilian territory. However, amidst widespread protest from corporations and civil society concerning the national and transnational implications of such a provision, including the Balkanization of the Internet, this requirement was withdrawn so that voting could take place.
Sir Tim Berners-Lee, founding director of the Web Foundation and inventor of the World Wide Web, offered a statement of strong support for Marco Civil: “Like the Web, Marco Civil has been built by its users – the groundbreaking, inclusive and participatory process has resulted in a policy that balances the rights and responsibilities of the individuals, governments and corporations who use the Internet. Of course, there is still discussion around some areas, but ultimately the draft Bill reflects the Internet as it should be: an open, neutral and decentralized network, in which users are the engine for collaboration and innovation. Commendably, the Bill has among its foundations the guarantee of human rights such as privacy, of citizenship and the preservation of the diversity and the social purpose of the web.”