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El Marco Civil: An Internet Success Story

BY Jessica McKenzie | Wednesday, March 26 2014

Brazil--a new world leader of net neutrality and an open and free Internet? (Wikipedia)

Yesterday evening the Brazilian Chamber of Deputies approved the Marco Civil bill, which contains significant protections for net neutrality, user privacy and security, and freedom of expression. The bill is the product of years of work, including a public consultation period in 2009 and 2010. The day of the vote many Brazilians took part in a “compartilhaço” or “sharing storm” on social media, tagging messages of support for the bill #EuQueroMarcoCivil (#IWantMarcoCivil), which became a worldwide trending topic March 25, the day of the vote.

Carolina Rossini, one of the three original authors of the bill, and now a lawyer at the New America Foundation, told Global Voices:

I feel my Carnival has finally arrived after years of work in partnership with various civil society, academia, policy makers and business groups that understand the Internet as a space for democracy and innovation! This is a collective victory, nationally and internationally.

Some of the things that the Marco Civil would establish include: guaranteeing net neutrality; protecting Internet companies from liability for third party content (except in cases where a court orders content removed); and a strong “Internet bill of rights” that supports freedom of expression, interoperability, protection for personal data, and open government data, among other things.

Notably absent from the current iteration of the Marco Civil bill is the stipulation that Brazilians' data be held within Brazil's borders, an idea floated after the Snowden revelations revealed the extent of NSA surveillance.

Even supporters of the bill acknowledge that Marco Civil isn't perfect—the protections for net neutrality are less rigorous than they could be, allowing for possibly too much future interference from telecommunications companies—but all in all, people agree it's “probably the best possible outcome given the existing political limitations.”

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, called it “the best possible birthday gift for Brazilian and global Web users.”

The World Wide Web turned 25 on March 12.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network and the UN Foundation for their generous support of techPresident's WeGov section.

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