The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) congratulates the Brazilian people on the adoption by the Chamber of Deputies (it has yet to be approved by the Senate) of the Marco Civil da Internet (Civil Rights Framework for the Internet) on 25 March 2014: the outcome of a four-year-long, inclusive consultation process in which civil society played a leading role.
Although the final, adopted version includes changes to the original text which is of some concern to civil society, the overriding response to the framework is positive. The Marco Civil states that net neutrality should be guaranteed in Brazil. This is a major victory at a time when this fundamental aspect of an open and inclusive internet has become harder to define, and is frequently challenged (most recently, in the United States). Other commendable provisions include protection of user privacy and limits to the liability of internet intermediaries (service providers) who, other than in cases of copyright infringement – a controversial provision that is still under debate – will require court orders to remove specific content.
What is most important about the Marco Civil is that, as its name implies, its core principle is the protection of civil rights, as opposed to market imperatives or governmental interests. Its rights-based and principled approach to regulation, underscoring freedom of expression, privacy and open standards, represents a watershed in the movement to advance a rights-based agenda in internet policy.
“The Marco Civil demonstrates that actors from government, business, civil society, the technical community, consumer groups and academics can come together and produce a policy framework that puts the public interest at its centre,” said Anriette Esterhuysen, APC’s executive director. “No doubt there are aspects in its provisions that some interest groups would want to change, but overall it proves that multi-stakeholder policy development can work; that new, more transparent, more inclusive processes that give non-governmental actors greater voice can produce powerful and positive results – positive from the perspective of maintaining the internet as a fair and open platform for all its users,” she concluded.
The passing of this law occurs against the backdrop of preparations for NetMundial, a global meeting on the future of internet governance convened by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and 1Net on 23 and 24 April 2014. APC’s policy manager, Valeria Betancourt, remarked that the timing could be crucial. “By creating a legislative instrument that promotes, respects and defends human rights online, the approval of the Marco Civil da Internet by the Chamber of Deputies sets a significant precedent that cannot be ignored by internet governance discussions in the Latin American region and elsewhere,” she said. “It should serve to convince participants in NetMundial that agreeing on principles for internet governance, and putting the public interest and human rights at the core of those principles, is possible, and that having such an agreement in place can facilitate greater balance and ‘health’ in the internet governance ecosystem,” she added.
The Association for Progressive Communications (APC) is an international network and non-profit organisation founded in 1990 that wants everyone to have access to a free and open internet to improve lives and create a more just world. Since its formation in 1990 the APC network and its members have been committed to achieving universal and affordable access to a free and open internet.