Internet “Bill of Rights” Becomes Law in Brazil

President Dilma Rousseff of Brazil signed Marco Civil da Internet, a comprehensive Internet rights bill, into law this morning. The Brazilian Senate voted in favor of the bill last night, just in time for President Rousseff to sign Marco Civil during the opening ceremony of the NETmundial Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, a major international event co-organized by the Brazilian government and held in São Paulo.

CDT applauds Marco Civil’s rights-based principles for law relating to the Internet, and welcomes the provisions it includes to protect user privacy and free speech rights, promote Internet access, preserve net neutrality, and shield intermediaries from liability for user-generated content. While CDT remains concerned about data retention provisions in the law, Marco Civil is a major victory for Internet rights advocates who have fought long and hard for its passage. (Read more on the privacy and free expression issues raised by data retention mandates here.)

Marco Civil is particularly notable for methods used to develop the legislation. The bill began with a promising, highly inclusive public consultation process. While the bill later faced numerous revisions, competing proposals, and delays, the bottom-up process used to develop Marco Civil is a good model for other governments as they consider national legislation to guarantee fundamental rights online. Discussion of such policy-development processes will be a central feature of the conversation in São Paulo this week.

In her opening speech this morning at NETmundial, President Rousseff discussed the significance of Marco Civil before hundreds of human rights advocates, engineers, academics, technical experts, members of industry, and government representatives: “The law clearly shows the feasibility and success of open multi-sectoral discussions as well as the innovative use of the Internet . . . as a tool and an interactive discussion platform.” She emphasized the importance of inclusivity, saying that Marco Civil “stands as an innovative benchmark . . . because in its development process, we heard the voices of the streets, the networks, and of different institutions.” While there will be participants in NETmundial who question the value of multistakeholder models of internet governance and policy development, proponents will be able to point to Marco Civil as a notable example of successful, inclusive processes.

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