Brazil passes groundbreaking Internet governance Bill

Key provisions around net neutrality, right to privacy and freedom of expression online are part of the country's first "Internet Constitution"
Written by Angelica Mari, Contributing Writer

Brazil has made history with the approval of a groundbreaking post-Snowden Bill which sets out principles, rights and guarantees for Internet users.

Last night (25), an overwhelming majority of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies voted in favor of the Marco Civil da Internet and its provisions around net neutrality, right to privacy and freedom of expression online.

The Bill, which now needs to be cleared by the Senate before it is sanctioned by president Dilma Rousseff, had its voting postponed several times in the last three years. It gained prominence after the NSA spying scandal and became the center of a political minefield due to disagreement over several crucial points.

The provisions around net neutrality are a key reason why the Bill is considered a major victory for the civil society and activists alike. Just as in other countries, telcos want to maintain their ability to favor certain internet services over others to their own commercial advantage - if it becomes law, the Marco Civil will ensure that this can't happen.

In order to speed up the progress of the Bill, the government gave up on the local storage requirements last week. The measure was intended to ensure the privacy of Internet users as well as government data following the news of NSA spying activity, which allegedly included monitoring of communications between President Dilma Rousseff and key aides.

Due to the removal of the requirement for local storage, the project rapporteur Alessandro Molon stressed the need to "strengthen" another article of the Bill, which states that companies storing and managing data generated by Brazilians should comply with Brazilian law when it comes to privacy rights, data protection and secrecy of private communications regardless of where datacenters - and the data itself - are located.

The Marco Civil also preserves protection against intermediary responsibility, which means that Internet service providers will not be liable for any offensive content published by users - currently, Brazil has no specific rules on this and court decisions vary around whether companies or users should be penalized over offensive pages.

According to the Bill, service providers will only be liable for damage caused by third parties if they don't comply with court orders requiring the removal of the offensive content. The purpose of the rule, according to the project's rapporteur Molon, is to strengthen freedom of expression on the web and avoid falling into what he defined as "private censorship."

The Bill is still subject to changes by the Senate, but its supporters are confident that the Marco Civil might, after all, become law before NETmundial, the global conference on Internet governance that will take place in Brazil next month.

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