Brazil’s ‘Big Spy Bill’ Threatens to Clamp Down on Internet Freedom

Brazil’s ‘Big Spy Bill’ Threatens to Clamp Down on Internet Freedom_Shutterstock
Brazil’s ‘Big Spy Bill’ Threatens to Clamp Down on Internet Freedom_Shutterstock

Brazil’s politicians are on a collision cause with the country’s young generation of YouTube addicts over planned restrictions on the Internet.

The country’s congress is debating a series of bills that would mean Internet users in Brazil would have to provide their full name, home address and taxpayer ID to every website they use. Those insulted by online content could apply for it to be removed from the Internet. Penalties for defamation would increase.

Brazil is one of the world’s biggest markets for Facebook and YouTube, and Brazilians spent twice as long on social networks as the global average. Freedom of speech campaigners say the politicians are trying to stifle a new wave of criticism and mockery that has flourished online since the digital revolution.

“Congressmen do not like the Internet as people say bad things about them online, especially given how many of them are currently accused of corruption,” says Ronaldo Lemos, director of Brazil’s Institute of Technology and Society.

“They are obsessed with libel and defamation. This law will make it easier to find and prosecute perpetrators. They have a very low tolerance to criticism, they are not used to it like politicians in the U.S. and feel they should have legal remedies.”

Brazil’s congress, which became much more conservative in recent elections, is planning to roll back elements of the groundbreaking Civil Rights Framework passed in 2014, which was hailed by World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee for its balance between the rights of users, governments and corporations while making sure the Internet remained an open and decentralized network.

The new law is being championed by Eduardo Cunha, the speaker of Brazil’s lower house, who has been accused of stashing $5 million in a Swiss bank account in a huge corruption scandal engulfing state oil giant Petrobras. Opponents have nicknamed the draft law the Big Spy. Awaiting a full vote in the lower house which should happen when it reconvenes in February, its stated purpose is to “punish honor crimes committed on social networks.”

It would require all websites, including those with no presence in Brazil, to store users’ personal details for up to three years and provide access to police or other “competent authorities” – a phrase not defined in law – with a court order.

It introduces a right to be forgotten, only unlike the European version it stipulates the actual content, not just search engine references to it, must be removed. Individuals could apply in cases where they have been absolved of a crime, the judgment has been delayed (as happens to many politicians, who can only be tried by the supreme court), or the content is libelous, defamatory or insulting.

Read as published by the Times


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