Debate Continues Over Brazil’s “Internet Bill of Rights”

Since 2009, lawmakers in Brazil have been attempting to pass a revolutionary piece of legislation which would recognize a new swath of civil rights regarding the Internet.  The “Marco Civil da Internet” borrows from international internet norms regarding expression, privacy, and net neutrality to identify new legal rights which would ensure that citizens reap the benefits of internet freedom while still being protected from data snooping and other possible harms.  The Marco Civil would restrict both the government and private actors’ abilities to violate citizens new rights. Many global tech companies such as Google, Facebook, and Mozilla support this bill in the hopes that other nations would follow Brazil’s lead.

The bill has faced harsh opposition from corporate groups and telecom companies who fear that continuing common, benign, practices under the new regime would leave them open to liability.  Other groups fear that changes to the bill have diluted its effectiveness in protecting for freedom of expression and other rights.  The result up to this point has been to make the process of drafting and revising the bill very difficult.   Questions arise such as whether these are negative rights, in that they dictate what the government and private actors cannot do with respect to a citizen’s use of the Internet, or positive rights, in that they convey an obligation by the government to ensure that its citizens have free and protected access to the Internet.

The text of the final product would be immensely important not just for Brazil, but will affect how all nations frame their discussions on internet rights.  As such many are hoping the bill is passed as soon as possible, so that such a step forward in internet rights does not founder under Brazil’s political struggles.

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