Marco Civil signed as Brazil hosts debate on Internet governance

Anadolu Agency

SÃO PAULO – The Brazilian government will not force Internet companies, such as Google, Facebook and Twitter, to set up data storage centres in Brazil, the country’s president Dilma Rousseff said on Thursday, a day after signing the country’s groundbreaking Internet Bill into law.

A clause requiring that information about Brazilian Internet users be stored in local data centres in Brazil, subject to Brazilian law, was struck from the bill, the Marco Civil, to ensure it was passed after seven years of toing and froing in Congress.

Opponents argued that businesses could be deterred from doing business in Brazil if they were forced to install costly data centers in Brazil, where stifling bureaucracy, complex tax systems and poor infrastructure are already hampering investment.

Rousseff signed the widely-praised, landmark bill, which guarantees Internet rights and neutrality, at the opening of a two-day NETmundial conference in São Paulo on the future of Internet governance, which concluded on Thursday.

Responding to questions live via social media for the first time, Rousseff said: “The government will not insist on new legislation to set up data centers in the country,” clarifying comments from communications minister Paulo Bernardo, who told conference-goers that the government would continue to press for accountable local data storage.

The bill, which Rousseff described as “assuring freedom of speech, privacy of the individual, and respect for human rights” establishes a set of principles, guarantees and rights for Brazilians using the Internet, and some experts say it could be replicated worldwide.

Praise for landmark bill

This week’s global multistakeholder NETmundial conference on Internet governance in São Paulo, attended by World Wide Web creator Sir Tim Berners-Lee, Google’s vice president Vint Cerf and Internet freedom activist Nnenna Nwakanma.

Berners-Lee said the Marco Civil was a “present for the 25th anniversary of the web” and that the Internet should be ruled by a “global public body,” while Nwakanma labelled witnessing the bill’s signing into law as “a historic moment” and stressed the importance that the entire world could “access the Internet freely and equally.”

The legislation was pushed through Congress in the wake of revelations in 2013 by former NSA intelligence analyst Edward Snowden that the United States had spied on the Brazilian president, the country’s state-run oil giant Petrobras, and the communications of millions of ordinary Brazilians.

Ever since, Brazil has sought to champion Internet freedom and neutrality, and this week’s conference has been viewed by many as an attempt to galvanise support further.

The United States, which was represented at the conference and is seen by many as unfairly dominating the Internet, signalled it was willing to relinquish some of this control, namely over ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which allocates domain names or addresses and has proven a source of tension in the past.

However, American representatives said they were keen to postpone further discussion on the topic until the Internet Governance Forum, to be held in Istanbul this September.

The NETmundial conference has brought together representatives from governments, civil society, the private sector, academia and the technical community of nearly 100 countries – all with equal standing – and said its two main goals are “the elaboration of principles of Internet governance and the proposal for a roadmap for future development of this ecosystem.”

Some participants suggest control of the Internet should be held under the framework of an international body, such as the United Nations.

The NETmundial conference produced an outcome statement, outlining points of agreement, issues that require further work, and topics for discussion at future fora.

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