Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: IT Security in the Snowden Era

Brazil Internet governance event disappoints activists

United States achieves watered down Net Mundial outcome statement on surveillance - but organizers see the event as a largely positive start of a move towards a less US-centric Internet

The outcome of two days of discussions at Brazil Internet conference Net Mundial is seen as largely positive by organizers - even though it fell short of the resolutions activists were hoping for and failed to produce concrete actions.

Delegates at the event, which ended yesterday (24), agreed that the Internet should remain a self-regulated space free of government intervention as well as the internationalization of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with the introduction of a "global multistakeholder community."

However, Brazil was pushing for a set of real actions on two specific points and the country's stance almost prompted the non-publication of a final outcome document. The draft committee then decided to present a non-binding declaration, with brief mentions to net neutrality and mass surveillance, to an exhausted audience after a two-hour delay.

The first bone of contention was the issue of network neutrality. Brazilian Communications Minister and Chair of the High Level Committee Paulo Bernardo, forced the inclusion of provisions around net neutrality - or the idea that broadband providers shouldn't be able to discriminate between different kinds of traffic - explicitly in the final document text, however this was relegated to a future discussion roadmap.

On the topic of surveillance, which was ultimately the very reason why the meeting was created, the United States pushed back on the intended statements that generalized mass surveillance as being inconsistent with the right to privacy. The watered down outcome document simply calls for a "review" of procedures and recommends that "more dialogue is needed on this topic at the international level" - no surprises there, as this is what the US had said it would do.

After a vigorous start, Net Mundial was rather disappointing for those expecting concrete change, but positive as a first effort to pave the way for a less US-centric Internet. It was also the first time in Internet history where key players in the ecosystem, academia, civil society and governments discussed and negotiated current and relevant issues around how the Internet is run on an equal footing.

Sure, Brazil's own Internet Bill of Rights, the Marco Civil, might have been approved in a rush to allow Dilma Rousseff to benefit from it globally and locally ahead of this year's presidential elections - and also to provide her government with a high-profile and powerful response to mass surveillance. But the Marco Civil is also something was on the agenda years before the NSA revelations and was well overdue.

In any case, the fact that Brazil started a discussion of this magnitude and guaranteed its own net neutrality by law in front of Web creator Tim Berners- Lee is not to be sniffed at. And this battle appears to be far from over.