Civil rights organizations up in arms against Internet.org in Brazil

NGOs question the benefits of a partnership between Facebook and the Brazilian government for free Internet provision

Civil rights organizations have expressed concern about the Brazilian government's intentions to partner with Facebook to provide free Internet access to low-income citizens through its not-profit initiative Internet.org.

Following the announcement made by Dilma Rousseff's office about the agreement with the company earlier this month, a group of 35 organizations and activists sent a letter to the president yesterday (23) where the benefits of Facebook's role in closing the digital divide are questioned.

"We agree with the fact that there is a significant deficit in the quality and extent of the access to fixed and mobile Internet in developing countries such as Brazil," the letter says.

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"[But] we believe that this project, promoted by Facebook in several countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia, could jeopardize the future of the information society, the economy in the digital environment and the rights of users in the network, such as privacy, freedom of expression and net neutrality," it adds.

The entities call for a halt to the negotiations with Facebook around the introduction of free Internet provision in Brazil. It also call for adherence to the net neutrality rules set in the Marco Civil da Internet, Brazil's Internet Bill of Rights, for any similar agreements with the social networking firm or any other company.

In addition, the letter states that any such agreement should be preceded by a public consultation.

"The news of a partnership with Facebook company without any prior knowledge of civil society differs from the democratic, transparent and inclusive approach that has been adopted in decisions and discussions related to the Marco Civil da Internet," the letter says.

Facebook is expected to launch Internet.org in Brazil in June.

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