How Brazil Leads the World In Internet Freedom

When the World Wide Web was first proposed in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee, his vision was to create a decentralized network of information that was free and open for everyone to access. Today, Berners-Lee and many others are fighting to preserve the new age of freedom of information expression the web enables.

At the same time, many countries around the world are placing that freedom in jeopardy.

In many countries, Internet freedom is becoming scarce. Across the globe, countries are restricting and censoring what websites are available to their citizens online. Countries around the world including Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, and Iran are blocking thousands of sites in an attempt to control what information their citizens are able to access.

Even in countries like the United States, which are commonly thought to be more free, legislation to keep the Internet neutral is being fought over by politicians. Instead of promoting freedom of information and expression, the NSA is monitoring our every day use of the Internet, recording and monitoring every click.

While the future of Internet freedom may look bleak in these countries, other countries are leading the way in Internet freedom, trying to preserve the openness that the World Wide Web was founded on, and leave the people to decide how to use it without restricting or censoring them.

Though it may not be the first country to leap to mind when thinking of Internet freedom, Brazil has been one of the world leaders in ensuring citizens’ rights when it comes to online privacy and freedom, leading the way to a truly free Internet,

In the past several years, the Brazilian government has placed the power in the hands of the people, starting in 2007 when Brazilian academic and lawyer Ronaldo Lemos proposed an online bill of rights drafted by consensus. This led to President Dilma Rousseff signing into law an Internet constitution that guarantees the privacy of Brazilian citizens online and promotes freedom of information on the World Wide Web in 2014.

In the midst of NSA spying scandals, countries around the world are inspired by the Brazilian Internet constitution, which shows the world how the freedom of the Internet can be preserved in a practical way.

Brazil Internet Privacy and Freedom

How Brazil Leads the World in Internet Freedom

In light of the Edward Snowden revelations, on April 22 2014 the Brazilian Senate passed a ground-breaking piece of legislation: The Marco Civil da Internet. Considered Brazil’s “Internet Constitution”, this act aims to guarantee equal access to the web and protect user privacy.

So what’s it all about?


The bill seeks to ensure:

  • Freedom of access and expression for all citizens
  • Limits on what information governments and companies can collect, store and use
  • Net neutrality: to protect and treat all information and users equally


Protection against online surveillance

Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president, has been vocal in her opposition to US surveillance practices. According to the Brazilian newspaper O Globo, Rousseff’s own email account had been hacked by the NSA.

“The internet you want is only possible in an environment of respect for human rights, especially privacy and freedom of expression.” – Dilma Rousseff

Net neutrality – the idea that all data on the internet should be treated equally, regardless of content or platform, is being debated all around the world.

Its inclusion in the Marco Civil received stiff opposition from telecommunications companies.



Brazilian citizens were invited to collaborate on the bill’s first draft by contributing to a government blog.

Other participants included:

  • Advocates of free open software
  • Lobbyists for companies such as Google and Yahoo

Brazilian laws globally

  • Disclosure of Brazilian personal data can only occur with a judicial order, even if the servers are located abroad.

Fine for failure

  • Failure to comply with the above can result in companies being fined up to 10% of their Brazilian annual revenue.


  • 45% of the Brazilian population is active online.
  • 1,100 Brazilians participated in the first draft of the bill in 2009.
  • 350,000 people signed the petition, organized by Gilberto Gil, showing support for the bill.
  • Yahoo is an official supporter of the bill.



  • The bill is first conceptualized by Ronaldo Lemos.


  • The first draft of the bill begins.
  • Then-president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, vows to block any legislation that might restrict online freedoms.


  • The bill is sent to Congress for approval.

March 25, 2014

  • Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies (the lower house) votes in favor of the Marco Civil.

April 22, 2014

  • The bill is approved by the Senate, and signed into law by Rousseff the following day.


Global Guidance

“Brazil will try to show off the Marco Civil effort and say, ’this is what we did internally, it actually works, and we would like it to be considered globally’.” – Ronaldo Lemos

Director of the Center for Technology and Society Fundaçao Getulio Vargas School of Law

Other countries that have already implemented net neutrality laws include:

  • Chile (2010)
  • The Netherlands (2012)
  • Slovenia (2013)

Brazil’s new legislation could prove an important step for a world struggling to put legal restrictions on the borderless internet.

“Ultimately the draft Bill reflects the internet as it should be: an open, neutral and decentralized network, in which users are the engine for collaboration and innovation.” – Tim Berners-Lee, founder of the World Wide Web, speaking about Brazil’s “Internet Constitution”

  • Brazil Becomes One of the First to Adopt Internet ‘Bill of Rights’ –
  • Brazil’S Statute of Virtual Liberty –
  • Brazilian Congress Passes Internet Bill of Rights –
  • Brazil to Pass Anti-Spy Bill in Victory for Net Neutrality –
  • Yahoo Backs New Bill to Support Net Neutrality in Brazil –
  • Chile: A Leader in Net Neutrality Legislation –
  • Slovenia Has a Net Neutrality Law –
  • Netherlands Passes Net Neutrality Law, First among EU Nations –
  • Net Neutrality in Slovenia –
  • World Wide Web Founder Supports Brazil’s ’Internet Constitution’ –
  • Brazil Looks to Break from US-Centric Internet –
  • Brazil Internet Act Approved in the House of Representatives –

Image Attributions

  • Dilma Rousseff, Dantadd / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0-br / Image has been cropeed
  • Lula de Silva, Carschten / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0-br / Image has been cropped
  • Ronaldo Lemos, Join / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0 / Image has been cropped
  • TimsBernersLee-2009 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 / Image has been cropped
  • Ronaldo Lemos, Sage Ross’s photostream / / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Image has been cropped

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