The Marco Civil da Internet – Civil Rights Framework for the Internet

Today the Brazilian congress is voting on the Marco Civil (”Civil Rights Framework for Internet in Brazil)! A very remarkable multi-stakeholder effort which is an inspiring example of how the democratic process can work in the internet era. The IRP have signed on to a letter from the Centro de Tecnologia e Sociedade (CTS-FGV) urging congress to pass the Marco Civil.


The Marco Civil, a ‘bill of rights for Internet’ users in Brazil, will come to a vote on August 8, 2012. While the majority seems to support the approval of the law, some are against the broad freedom that the initiative will bring.

One reason is that Brazil is a rather young democracy. From 1964 to 1985 the country was governed by a military regime, which imposed strict censorship rules. Major artists, newspapers, and tv networks had to submit their activities to prior approval by a censorship board. When democracy was reestablished in 1986, censorship was eliminated, but the trauma of 20 years of repression had been painfully imprinted in the Brazilian society. This trauma has made Brazil very sensitive to new threats of censorship, in its many forms.

Another factor is that president Dilma Rousseff has been taking a public stance in favor of freedom of expression. It makes sense. In the 1960s, she was imprisoned and tortured during the military regime for participating in a dissident group. Unswervingly, she declared at a recent human rights conference that she “prefers the noise of the press to the silence of the dictatorship”.

The Marco Civil is also unique in that it was developed in a highlyparticipatory style. Lawmakers were not the only entities involved in drafting the law–academic experts, civil society groups, and Internet users had a critical role in developing the law’s text as well.

The [Marco Civil da Internet] was written with the participation of society…its essential goal is to create exceptions and limitations for new legislation on the Internet, creating a layer of protection for a free and democratic society…

Lawmakers partnered with scholars at Fundacao Getulio Vargas, the country’s leading social science research institution, to draft the preliminary text for the law. It was then posted for an open online consultation where all Brazilians were invited to comment and make suggestions for the bill through Cultura Digital, the website of the Ministry of Culture. The process reflected a potent vision for Internet policymaking, one in which all individuals who hold stake in the social and technological power and functioning of the Internet can have a say in how it is governed. Visit Cultura Digital [pt] to see the online forum.

Over the past decade, Brazil has pioneered a digital policymaking approach that many countries have looked to as a model for promoting innovation and openness online. During the administration of Ignacio “Lula” da Silva, Minister of Culture and acclaimed musician Gilberto Gil developed a policy agenda that focused on increasing Internet access and digital education for all Brazilians.



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