Proposed Law Could Increase Internet Censorship, Decrease Privacy in Brazil

Update – April 2016: A report was recently released by the Brazilian Commission of Inquiry (CPI) regarding Internet-related bills. Within the report are recommendations for legislation governing cybercrime, including seven bills. These recommendations are raising major concern – and protest – from privacy activists around the world.

Brazil has an existing “bill of rights” called the Marco Civil da Internet. The new proposals from CPI threaten the existing privacy protections and rights in place under Marco Civil da Internet, including freedom of expression, network neutrality and data protection. As described out by Global Voices advox, these laws outline “when and how Internet applications should be obliged to remove content; whether law enforcement agencies can request ISPs to reveal users’ IP addresses without a court order; and whether courts can demand that ISPs block traffic to applications in some circumstances.”

As outlined by Access Now, these cybercrime proposals would “gut” digital rights in Brazil. These are the particularly concerning elements that harm human rights and innovation:

  • Warrantless access to IP address information
  • Active monitoring for infringing content
  • Blocking applications and content merely “related” to criminal activity
  • Legal and practical burdens for companies asked to monitor for illegal content

The EFF has launched a petition, which is also being supported by Access Now and several other groups, to fight back against these Internet-related bills which violate the “Collaborative spirit of the Marco Civil da Internet” and “roll back existing safeguards for freedom of expression and privacy online.” Tell the Brazilian government to say no to the final report on CPI cybercrimes. 

You can also read more about the proposed law and changes from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Global Voices.

Original Post – February 1, 2016: Bad news out of Brazil. Time reported last week that Brazil’s Congress is considering legislation which would increase censorship and impinge upon Internet Freedom in the country. This proposed law would take back some of the Internet freedoms granted in the “Civil Rights Framework” (Brazil’s digital bill of rights) passed in 2014.

The new law would require Internet users in Brazil to register personal details when accessing websites, as well as allow for censorship of posts on social sites. The situation was described by Time as follows: “The country’s congress is debating a series of bills that would mean Internet users in Brazil would have to provide their full name, home address and taxpayer ID to every website they use. Those insulted by online content could apply for it to be removed from the Internet. Penalties for defamation would increase.”

This new law is being pushed by the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, Eduardo Cunha, and has been nicknamed “Big Spy Bill” by the people. Its stated purpose is to “punish honor crimes committed on social networks,” but it goes well beyond that – the law would require websites (even those without presence in Brazil) to store users’ personal details for up to 3 years. Police and others, described vaguely as “competent authorities,” would then be able to access this information. The article speculates the law is being introduced to protect politicians from criticism, especially amid reports of corruption that many of them face.

Brazil is a huge market for Facebook and YouTube, as well as for mobile usage. Brazil has previously enjoyed a very free and open Internet, so this news is a departure – and not a good one. As such, the proposed law has faced much resistance with many young people and others speaking out. One academic called it “absolutely absurd,” saying “It’s bad for innovation and it’s a bad idea on the part of Brazil.” Some groups have also argued it’s unconstitutional.

Unfortunately this isn’t the first time Brazil has enacted censorship. Just a few months ago they cut off access to WhatsApp because WhatsApp didn’t comply with a court order regarding a criminal investigation. It is our hope that this legislation will not move forward, and Brazil will not continue to slip down the path of restricting Internet freedom and privacy.

Sources: New York Times and Time