#bomdiaObama: From US Surveillance to Brazilian Internet Policy

//2013 AnOx participant, Dr. Luiz Peres-Neto, ESPM School, Brazil, analyzes the current Brazilian Internet draft regulation in light of recent surveillance revelations.

When Snowden’s revelations of US surveillance first emerged, the Brazilian government responded that they did not know if PRISM surveillance had implications on local sovereignty. At that point, Brazilian internet users began joking about the scandal by putting personal messages to President Obama on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks, which included informal posts like “good morning”, “hey” or addressed to the US President. In this sense, “#bomdiaObama” (Good morning Obama) became a trending topic on Brazilian Twitter showing an embrace of humor as soft criticism of privacy invasion.

This scenario changed dramatically, when on July 7th, the newspaper “O Globo” published some of Snowden’s documents in which Brazil was shown as a US priority spying target, with personal data and Internet information of local users captured alongside users in China, Russia, Iran, and Pakistan[1]. After these facts emerged, Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff made a public statement and asked for formal explanations from the US government.

Snowden’s revelations led to a “window of opportunity”[2] for re-initiating discussion of a draft Internet policy regulation, Projeto de Lei 2126/2011[3], best known as “Marco Civil da Internet”, which had been off the political agenda since December 2012. Communication Minister Paulo Bernardo said on July 24th that “it is urgent to pass this law in order to regulate internet in Brazil”.[4] The goal of the legislation is to protect individuals by defining the right to privacy, web neutrality, and freedom of speech. However, when the bill was first introduced, different media groups lobbied to have it removed from the agenda or modified substantially. Therefore, it has undergone significant revisions and has yet to be passed.

One group with significant interest in the bill is the large telecom companies, including Oi, TIM, Claro and Vivo, which are now the most important Internet access providers in Brazil.  According to F/Nasca-Datafolha 2012 survey there are 84.5 million internet users in Brazil and 41 million of them use mobile phones to get connected[5] While these companies denied their cooperation with surveillance and collection of personal data, all the companies mentioned have international agreements to use satellites and submarine cable gates, which expose personal data and traffic information.  Telecom companies oppose the bill for the additional regulations it puts on their capacity to collect data and control the flow of broadband speed.

Another key political actor is traditional media groups, such as Rede Globo (the largest TV and multimedia content production group), who have an interest in Internet regulation as it relates to copyright violation.  Traditional media groups successfully lobbied for an addition to the bill, which would allow these content producers to force online media to take off content violating copyright, without a judicial order. This addition to the bill moved the monitoring of copyright violations to the private, as opposed to judicial sphere, and is a very controversial element of the bill under consideration.

Lastly, civil groups have created social movements to pressure the government to guarantee a freer Internet in Brazil. These groups, for example, have utilized art to make public statements in citizes like San Paulo, Belo Horizonte, and Rio de Janeiro and have inspired additional public debate surround Internet regulation.

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Credits: Artistic intervention for freedom in internet (“Internet Livre”) at Paulista Avenue, one of the main Sao Paulo’s streets. July 27th, 2013.

Currently, the Brazilian Senate has created a special Committee to investigate national sovereignty violations among other political controversies and the Federal Police opened a criminal prosecution. Hence, the Minister of Institutional Relations Ideli Salvati proposed that Congress vote on the Internet Policy Bill (Projeto de Lei 2126/2011) in September, as part of this general debate regarding the state of Internet freedom in Brazil. However, due to conflicting interests of the many stakeholders involved, it is unclear what will proceed.

 

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