In April 2014 Brazil passed the world’s first Internet Bill of Rights. The Marco Civil da Internet guarantees basic protections for Internet users, and is considered a major step forward for online law.
Dubbed Brazil's 'Internet Constitution' the Bill of Rights has catapulted Brazil to a progressive position in digital policymaking, potentially serving as a model for other countries trying to balance user rights against interests of online companies and law enforcement.
President Dilma Rousseff, who was the target of U.S. espionage according to documents leaked by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, plans to signed the bill into law.
With such wide participation from Brazil's population, it is expected that some would criticize and some would support the initiative. Many are in favour of the final version of the Bill of Rights.
Father of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee applauded the legislative move for balancing the rights and duties of users, governments and corporations while ensuring the Internet continues to be an open and decentralized network.
The proposal means that service providers (such as Youtube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) do not have any responsibility over the content being uploaded by their users, and wouldn't be able to remove content - even if offensive - without a warrant, because such attitude is seen as a violation of freedom of expression.
Professor Marcelo Thompson, from the University of Hong Kong, explains:
"If the online service provider knows with certainty it is hosting content crudely offensive to someone’s privacy, sexual orientation, children’s rights, you name it, and does nothing about it — actually, even if the provider explicitly acknowledges the offensive nature of the content, even if it acts out of sheer cruelty in leaving things as they stand –, its conduct will not carry any liability whatsoever."
But some critics still think that the law violates Brazilian rights of security and response of anonymity and defends the exemption of liability providers, thus making the Internet 'lawless'. The Constitution of Brazil establishes that the expression of thought is free and anonymity forbidden.
Telecommunications companies and the copyright industry lobbied the Chamber of Representatives to put a hold on the Internet Bill of Rights because the issue of net neutrality is included in the law.
US Digital Bill of Rights
Meanwhile in the US, Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, is stoking an online debate on what a potential "Digital Citizens' Bill of Rights" could look like.
He posted his proposed Bill on Madison, a collaborative bill-editing site and users have been making edits and revisions to it. It's a neat work in progress as people collaborate and try to define those rights that we hold dear online, in a way that can be protected from a potentially over-zealous government.
The US government is responding to entreaties from major corporations (i.e. The Recording Industry Association of America),who are seeking more tools to protect themselves against online users who are peddling counterfeit goods or pirated digital content. But many worry the government powers would be too extensive, allowing law enforcement to shut down websites and blogs that display potentially infringing content.
Issa's Bill sets out ten important rights for online users... and so to our Ten Commandments
The 10 Commandments of the Internet Age
- 1. Freedom - digital citizens have a right to a free, uncensored Internet
- 2. Openness - digital citizens have a right to an open, unobstructed internet
- 3. Equality - all digital citizens are created equal on the internet
- 4. Participation - digital citizens have a right to participate peacefully where and how they choose on the internet
- 5. Creativity - digital citizens have a right to create, grow and collaborate on the internet, and be held accountable for what they create
- 6. Sharing - digital citizens have a right to freely share their ideas, lawful discoveries and opinions on the internet
- 7. Accessibility - digital citizens have a right to access the internet equally, regardless of who they are or where they are
- 8. Association - digital citizens have a right to associate freely on the internet
- 9. Privacy - digital citizens have a right to privacy on the internet
- 10. Property - digital citizens have a right to benefit from what they create, and be secure in their intellectual property on the internet