The Civil Rights Framework for the Internet ("Marco Civil da Internet") is an initiative from the Brazilian Ministry of Justice, in partnership with the Center for Technology and Society of the Getulio Vargas Foundation (CTS/FGV), to develop a collaborative process in which all the actors from Brazilian society could identify together the rights and responsibilities that should guide the use of the Internet in Brazil. The process, which resulted in a Bill of Law, is an example of the importance and the great potential of multistakeholder involvement on policy-making.
The draft Bill was officially named Marco Civil (“Civil [Regulatory] framework”, as opposed to a “Criminal framework”), placing Internet access among relevant civil rights. The online consultation was divided into two periods, each of them spanning roughly 45 days. The first period of the consultation involved a debate about general principles, which then served as reference for the writing of the text of draft Bill. These principles were divided into three groups: (1) individual and collective rights (privacy, freedom of speech, and access rights), (2) principles related to intermediaries (net neutrality and civil liability), and (3) governmental directives (openness, infrastructure, and capacity building). The draft text for the Bill, reflecting the comments received on its first phase, was then put under consultation for the second period.
Contributions were received through a website hosted by Cultura Digital, an online platform developed by the Ministry of Culture, with the goal to encourage the emergence of online communities for the discussion of public policies for the digital environment. During both periods of the consultation, users were allowed to comment on the consultation texts, paragraph by paragraph, directly in the website. Nonetheless, blog posts, tweets, articles published in mainstream media, and institutional and individual contributions sent by email (and then made available to the public at the website) were also taken into consideration.
The final text of the bill was recently presented to Brazilian Congress. It contains 25 articles divided into 5 chapters, concerning: (1) Preliminary Provisions; (2) User Rights and Guarantees; (3) Provision of Connection Services and Internet Services; (4) The Role of Public Authorities; (5) Final Provisions. The bill begins by advancing users’ rights and some general principles for the regulation of the Internet, before dealing with the issues of the preservation of connection logs, secondary liability for ISPs, and net neutrality, and then wraps with directives aimed at the public sector.
Predictably, debates that involved the balance between conflicting rights and interests, freedom of speech, anonymity, privacy and access rights were the topics of heated and often rich debates during both stages of the consultation process. Over 2,000 contributions, from individual users, governmental and non-governmental entities were received.
NGOs, universities, internet service providers (collectively though associations, as well as individually), business companies, law firms, law enforcement agencies, individuals, Brazilian Embassies from all over the world, and many other participants have joined the online public hearing. The participation of several stakeholder groups has promoted the diversity of opinions and the availability of high quality information and expert advise, which have helped the government to draft a balanced bill. The openness and transparency of the process, entirely conducted online, in the public eye, has improved the legitimacy of the bill. Marco Civil was introduced in Congress with the political weight and the legitimacy that the Bill would be expected to have after a complex multistakeholder discussion.
If approved by the National Congress as it stands, the Marco Civil would be a Federal Law, applicable to public and private entities, as well as to individuals. Its provisions would be enforceable and one could resort to courts as a mean to have such principles complied in further national Internet regulation processes.
The Marco Civil is presently being discussed at the National Congress as Bill of Law nr. 2126/2011.