- No new suspensions of WhatsApp occurred during 2017 and 2018, following a series of orders to block WhatsApp in 2015 and 2016 for failing to comply with court requests to provide information (see Blocking and Filtering).
- Facing significant backlash by digital rights activists, President Temer vetoed a controversial provision that would have enabled parties and candidates to force social networks to swiftly remove offensive content by anonymous authors ahead of the 2018 general elections (see Content Removal).
- As concerns about proliferation of false information surged in the lead-up to the 2018 general elections, several initiatives and legislative proposals emerged to tackle these practices (see Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation).
Brazil’s internet freedom environment improved slightly this year, after judges ceased to impose disproportionate blockings on WhatsApp. However, the online environment in Brazil remained constrained by violence against independent bloggers, criminal defamation laws, and restrictive limits on content related to elections.
Despite boasting some of the most progressive and comprehensive legislation on digital rights, Brazil’s "Internet Constitution" has been interpreted as a basis for recurring suspensions of WhatsApp. A trend of application blockings that dominated the previous years, finally ceased after heavy backlash from all sectors of society. These cases resulted in several initiatives – legislative and judicial – to prevent judges from having the power to order nationwide blockings of applications.
Amid political uncertainty and polarization running up to the elections in October 2018, the “fake news” phenomenon became a prominent preoccupation. With some 10 draft bills appearing in the first four months of 2018 alone, proposals seeking to criminalize the dissemination of misinformation sparked freedom of expression concerns among digital rights activists. Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court also approached the issue of misinformation as a top priority, even warning that the elections could be annulled if results were found to be heavily influenced by such practices. Posts disclosing information that is known to be untrue about candidates have been subject to removal, and in July 2018, Facebook reportedly removed a network of pages and accounts that were being used “for the purpose of sowing division and spreading misinformation.”
High levels of violence in Brazil’s urban centers, coupled with impunity for many crimes, have contributed to one of the highest rates of violence against journalists in the region. Online journalists and bloggers reporting on sensitive topics such as corruption continued to be targeted.
Internet and mobile penetration rates have increased steadily in Brazil, but significant regional disparities in access persist. An attempt by the government to change the composition of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.Br) by increasing government seats caused uproar within Brazil’s internet community. Following a public consultation, CGI.br in turn submitted its recommendations to uphold the multi-stakeholder governance model.
Availability and Ease of Access
Despite economic growth in recent years, Brazil’s access rates remain below average compared to many North American and European countries.1 Various obstacles continue to prevent many households from accessing the internet, such as high prices charged by service providers and telecommunication companies — a problem that extends to fixed broadband, wireless, and 3G and 4G technologies — and persistent social inequalities. A significant digital divide and disparities in infrastructure are evident among various geographical regions, as well as between urban and rural areas.
The use of free public access points has increased, especially given the greater availability of free Wi-Fi hotspots and public policies promoting free internet access in public spaces, such as squares.2 However, some of these initiatives, such as the “Wi-Fi Livre Sampa” plan for the city of São Paulo, have raised data protection concerns (see “Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity”).3 While national wireless networks are still small if compared to other countries, Anatel registered over one million hotspots in Brazil as of August 2016.4
Mobile penetration has grown significantly over the past few years and mobile broadband connections have quickly become a primary means for Brazilians to access the internet. However, Brazil’s economic crisis and stricter credit policies imposed by operators might have contributed to a slight drop in the number of mobile subscriptions over the past three years.5 As of October 2017, some 92 million users had 3G services, a significant decrease when compared to 2016 numbers (115 million users).6 The number of smartphones with 4G services has increased since 4G was introduced in April 2013, but 4G availability remains lower that the global and South American average.7 According to the consultancy company Teleco, Brazil had around 105 million active 4G subscriptions by January 2018.8 Such advanced internet services, however, are heavily concentrated in wealthy urban centers, such as São Paulo.9
Brazil’s federal government has implemented a number of internet expansion and improvement programs since 2010, including the National Broadband Plan (Plano Nacional de Banda Larga or PNBL).10 In 2017, the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovation and Communications launched a public consultation for a new national connectivity plan – dubbed “Internet for All” (Internet para Todos) – to expand access to underserved areas and increase fixed and mobile broadband infrastructure in the country.11 In May 2017, Brazil launched its first defense and strategic communications satellite,12 which aimed to provide secure communication channels for defense purposes, while also boosting broadband capacity.13 However, connectivity programs using the Defense and Communications Geostationary Satellite were paralyzed after an injunction prevented Telebrás from partnering with the U.S. company Viasat to deploy satellite broadband throughout the country. A competitor from Amazonas disputed the contract in a lawsuit filed in March 2018. 14 In July 2018, the Federal Supreme Court overturned the injunction.15
Restrictions on Connectivity
The government does not place limits on bandwidth, nor does it impose control over telecommunications infrastructure. There have been no reported instances of the government cutting off internet connectivity during protests or social unrest. In 2015 and 2016, three judicial orders temporarily blocked WhatsApp because its parent company Facebook was unable to comply with information requests as part of criminal investigations; no similar orders were recorded during this coverage period (see “Blocking and Filtering”).16
Over the past decade, private backbone infrastructure, such as that of Oi, GVT and Embratel, has expanded in Brazil.17 In 1998, the state-owned company Embratel, which was responsible for building the internet backbone, was privatized and acquired by the U.S. company MCI; it was later acquired by the Mexican telecom América Móvil in 2003.
Internationally, undersea cables connect to Brazil from North America and Europe. In April 2017, the Spanish and Brazilian governments confirmed plans to build the first undersea fiber optic cable linking Brazil to Europe.18 Some of the impetus for building these connections is related to a desire to avoid reliance on U.S. infrastructure after revelations of pervasive U.S. spying on Brazilians in 2013,19 although there are still ongoing projects to construct more cables connecting Brazil to the United States.20
In 2004, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) launched an initiative called PTT Metro to create internet exchange points (IXPs) across Brazil, starting with their first IXP in São Paulo. Currently, Brazil has at least 25 IXPs installed in the country.21
Although there are no significant legal or economic barriers for companies competing in the ISP, mobile, or digital technology sectors, the Brazilian ICT market is highly concentrated. Three large private companies — Oi, Claro and Vivo (Telefônica Brasil) — represent nearly 80 percent of the country’s broadband market.22 Four large private companies — Vivo, TIM, Claro, and Oi —hold almost 98 percent of the mobile market.23 Such high market concentration could make it very difficult for other providers such as Algar and Nextel to compete in the mobile sector.24
In January 2014, the Brazilian competition authority approved the merger of Oi and Portugal Telecom into CorpCo. This merger was completed in 2015 and ranked CorpCo as the leading telecommunication company in Portuguese-speaking countries worldwide.25 Also in 2014, the acquisition of Vivendi’s GVT by Telefônica Brasil resulted in a merger of two of the country’s larger broadband services – GVT and Vivo – further contributing to market concentration.26
In March 2017, the Senate passed a bill prohibiting data caps on fixed broadband (PLS 174/2016),27 after an announcement in March 2016 that ISPs would impose data caps on broadband internet had caused uproar among users, politicians and internet-dependent businesses.28 The bill then proceeded to the House of Representatives as PL 7.182/2017.29 It had not yet been approved in mid-2018.
Two regulatory agencies oversee Brazilian ICTs in general: the Brazilian Agency of Telecommunications (Anatel) and the Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE), an antitrust agency that is focused on reviewing mergers and anticompetitive practices in telecommunications markets.30 The government also created the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) in 1995, a multi-stakeholder independent organization in charge of coordinating and integrating all internet service initiatives in Brazil, as well as promoting technical quality, innovation, and the dissemination of services. Provisions in the Civil Rights Framework for the Internet (Marco Civil da internet) mandate that the government consult with CGI.br, and in various instances directly involve the Committee, in policy-making and implementation of Marco Civil processes.
Anatel is administratively and financially independent, and not hierarchically subordinate to any government agency. Its decisions are only subject to judicial review in national courts. From the Ministry of Communications, Anatel has inherited the powers of granting, regulating, and supervising telecommunications in Brazil, as well as much of its technical expertise and other material assets. In 2016, Anatel initially backed policies establishing data limits on home broadband internet, but backtracked in the midst of public criticism (see ICT Market).
CGI.br is formed by government officials, as well as private sector representatives, civil society, and the science and technology community.31 CGI.br’s contributions include comprehensive and reliable annual reports on internet use in Brazil, funding for internet governance-related research, and the promotion of conferences such as the annual Brazilian Internet Governance Forum. In June 2009, CGI.br declared the “Principles for the Governance and Use of the Internet,” which include online freedom, privacy, human rights, and net neutrality as a foundation for the Brazilian information society.32 Many of these principles were adopted into Brazilian law through the Marco Civil in 2014.
In August 2017, the government proposed a public consultation to advance significant changes in CGI.Br’s representation and election patterns. The public consultation sparked criticism, as it was announced without any prior dialogue with the multi-stakeholder community or even other members of the Steering Committee. Some critics the government had sought to increase its control over the CGI and to allow for a revision of the net neutrality rules in the Marco Civil.33 Following these events, CGI.br itself proposed a second public consultation, held in November 2017. This time, it included representatives of various sectors, as well as the members of the CGI, to seek a broader perspective on the issue.34 According to the CGI’s December 2017 report, consulted parties supported the need to maintain a multi-stakeholder approach.35
- 1. International Telecommunication Union, “Percentage of Individuals Using the Internet, 2000-2016,” http://bit.ly/1cblxxY
- 2. CETIC 2016, http://www.cetic.br/media/docs/publicacoes/2/TIC_DOM_2016_LivroEletroni…
- 3. Bruno R. Bioni, “Expansão do Wi-Fi público às ‘custas” de dados pessoais” [Expansion of Public Wi-Fi at the ‘expense’ of personal data], JOTA, July 17, 2017. http://bit.ly/2HbPlwg
- 4. Teleco, “Seção: Banda Larga - Hot-spots Wi-Fi no Brasil” [Section: Broadband - Wi-Fi hotspots in Brazil], August 2016, http://bit.ly/2dLKJAo
- 5. Teleco, “Seção: Telefonia Celular no Brasil - Estatísticas de Celulares no Brasil” `[Section: Mobile Telephony in Brazil - Cellular Statistics in Brazil], http://bit.ly/1CyJWIU
- 6. Teleco, “Seção: 3G - Quantidade de Acessos 3G no Brasil (Anatel)l” [Section: 3G - Quantity of 3G accesses in Brazil], http://bit.ly/1w6LIAI
- 7. OpenSignal. State of Mobile Networks: Brazil (January 2018). http://bit.ly/2FWhQ1A
- 8. Teleco, “Seção: 4G - 4G (LTE) no Brasil” [Section: 4G - 4G (LTE) in Brazil], http://bit.ly/2ddg2RO
- 9. https://opensignal.com/reports/2018/01/brazil/state-of-the-mobile-netwo…
- 10. Anatel, “Plano Nacional de Banda Larga” [National Broadband Plan], December 2016 , http://bit.ly/2Fhnled ; “Em 2018, 70% dos brasileiros terão acesso à banda larga” [In 2018, 70 percent of Brazilians will have access to broadband], Portal Brasil, October 22, 2015, http://bit.ly/2bPJzpi
- 11. Rafael Bucco, “MCTIC Opens Consultation on the National Plans of Connectivity (Portuguese), Tele.Sintese, October 18, 2017, http://www.telesintese.com.br/mctic-abre-consulta-sobre-o-plano-naciona…
- 12. “First Satellite Controlled by Brazil Launches Successful (Portuguese),” Valor, May 4, 2017, http://www.valor.com.br/brasil/4958144/primeiro-satelite-controlado-pel…
- 13. “‘Internet for All’ plan advances in Brasil”, ZDNet, February 8, 2018, https://zd.net/2IFz6Na
- 14. ˜Programa Internet para Todos é interrompido por irregularidades no contrato,˜ April 20, 2018, https://canaltech.com.br/telecom/programa-internet-para-todos-e-interro…
- 15. http://www.telebras.com.br/inst/?p=9827
- 16. InternetLab, Bloqueios.info, http://bit.ly/2FZYRTR
- 17. http://www.infodev.org/infodev-files/resource/InfodevDocuments_1128.pdf
- 18. “Spain, Brazil Plan Subsea Fiber Optic Cable by 2019,” Reuters, April 24, 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/spain-brazil-telecoms/spain-brazil-plan…
- 19. Anna Edgerton and Jordan Robertson, “Brazil-to-Portugal Cable Shapes Up as Anti-NSA Case Study,” Bloomberg Business, October 30, 2014, http://bloom.bg/1gOGiDz
- 20. Angelica Mari, “Brazil-US undersea cable suffers delays,” ZDNet, December, 16, 2016, http://zd.net/2rC56Yb; “Seaborn Networks’ Seabras-1 subsea cable system between the USA and Brazil is ready for operations,” Press Release, September 8, 2017, http://bit.ly/2zF4w13
- 21. Latin America and Caribbean Network Information Center, “Internet Exchange Points en América Latina y Caribe,” http://bit.ly/1V9O79Q
- 22. Teleco, “Seção: Banda Larga—Market Share de Banda Larga no Brasil,” [Section: Broadband—Market Share of Broadband in Brazil], http://bit.ly/1ix3MhE
- 23. Teleco, “Telefonia Celular—Market Share das Operadoras de Celular” [Section: Cellular Telephony—Market Share of Cellular Operators], http://bit.ly/1ix42gx
- 24. Teleco, “Operadoras de Celular- April 2017” [Cellular Operators, April 2017], http://bit.ly/1cfEPkY
- 25. “Brazil competition watchdog approves Oi, Portugal Telecom merger,” Reuters, January 14, 2014, http://reut.rs/1Ov29ys
- 26. “Anatel aprova compra da GVT pela Vivo (e o que isso muda)” [Anatel approves purchase of GVT by Vivo, and what this changes], Technoblog, September 2014, http://bit.ly/2bQCbVX
- 27. “Senado aprova projeto que proíbe limitação de dados na internet fixa,” [Senate Approves Bill Prohibiting Data Limits for Fixed Broadbands], Senado Notícias, March 1, 2017, http://bit.ly/2n2BQIv
- 28. Angelica Mari, “Brazilians protest against fixed broadband data cap,” ZDNet, April 13, 2016, http://zd.net/2c4dCGR
- 29. Câmara dos Deputados, “PL 7182/2017,” http://bit.ly/2Fj0Vcw
- 30. Vinicius Marques de Carvalho, “Brazil: CADE,” The Antitrust Review of the Americas 2014 (London: Global Competition Review, 2014), http://bit.ly/1LG4xjL
- 31. https://www.cgi.br/about/
- 32. CGI.br, “Principles for the Governance and Use of the Internet,” January 28, 2015, http://bit.ly/2bREEnM
- 33. Coalizão Direitos na Rede. “On the attacks of the Temer government on the Internet Steering Committee in Brazil,” August 8, 2017, http://bit.ly/2yuN6DC; Adam Segal, “Brazil’s Internet is under attack, again,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 14, 2017, http://on.cfr.org/2wbhBO2
- 34. “Em audiência pública, CGI.br recebe contribuições sobre estrutura de governança da Internet no Brasil” [In public hearing, CGI.br receives contribuitions on the structure of the Internet governance in Brazil]. CGI.br, November 17, 2017. https://bit.ly/2GHtGLv http://www.abranet.org.br/Noticias/CGI.br-chama-populacao-para-consulta…
- 35. Convergência Digital, “CGI.br: Multissetorialismo se mantém como base para a Governança da Internet,” December 20, 2017, https://bit.ly/2Q1O8fX
No new blocking orders against WhatsApp were issued during the past year, following a judicial blocking trend in 2015 and 2016 linked to requests to turn over information as part of criminal investigations by the police. Legal provisions criminalizing defamation and blasphemy and restricting speech around elections continue to impose some constraints on online content. As concerns about proliferation of toxic or false information surged in the lead-up to the 2018 general elections, several legislative proposals and initiatives emerged to tackle these practices.
There are no proven indications that Brazilian authorities are filtering messages or engaging in widespread blocking online. Social networks, communication apps, and video-sharing platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Vimeo and Vevo are — for the most part — freely accessible and widely used in Brazil.
There were no new orders to block WhatsApp during this period of coverage, following a series of such cases in 2015-2016. Since 2015, judges have asked telecom companies to temporarily block access to WhatsApp on four occasions for failing to comply with information requests as part of criminal investigations. A first order issued in February 2015 was suspended before the app was blocked,1 and three subsequent shutdowns were implemented in December 2015, May 2016, and July 2016.2 WhatsApp has argued that it could not provide information it did not have, and that such requests to turn over information are technically impossible given its current end-to-end encryption system.3
The WhatsApp blockings resulted in two legal actions, and the Supreme Federal Court held its first public hearings in June 2017.4 A claim for violation of constitutional rules (Arguição de Descumprimento de Preceito Fundamental) argues that the decisions to block WhatsApp were illegal because they breached the right to communication and disproportionately affected millions of consumers and internet users.5 On the other hand, a Direct Unconstitutionality Action (Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade), argues that the Marco Civil’s provisions used for the blockings are illegal under Brazilian constitutional law. Article 12 of the Marco Civil establishes sanctions for violations of Articles 10 and 11, which require application providers to disclose the content of private communications exclusively under judicial orders. Some critics argue that a “temporary suspension” would violate the same right to communication established by the Constitution. Several experts have argued that Article 12 of the Brazilian Marco Civil does not allow for the entire blocking of sites and applications, but only of data collection and treatment activities mentioned in Article 11.6
Several proposed bills have also sought to address the issue of website and application blockings, but had not yet been approved.7 Several of them aimed to amend the Marco Civil, notably PL 5130/2016 proposed to prohibit the possibility of suspending access to any internet application.8
While the enactment of Marco Civil has been hailed as a progressive landmark for internet governance, certain legal provisions criminalizing defamation and blasphemy and restricting speech around elections continue to put some constraints on internet freedom online. Brazilian cybercrime legislation also limits certain online content. The “Azeredo Law” of November 2012 establishes the creation of specialized teams and sectors structured by the judicial police to fight against cybercrimes and to take down racist content.9
In the run-up to the 2018 general elections, several initiatives sought to tackle the proliferation of offensive or false information online. A resolution on electoral propaganda issued in December 2017 was used to order the removal of content disclosing "facts that are known to be untrue" about candidates.10 In June 2018, the Superior Electoral Court (TSE) gave Facebook 48 hours to remove several posts linking presidential candidate Marina Silva to corruption investigations.11 More recently, in July, Facebook reportedly removed a network of 196 pages and 87 accounts that were being used by a right-wing activist group “for the purpose of sowing division and spreading misinformation.”12
Other legislative proposals sparked criticism from digital rights groups. In late 2017, President Temer vetoed a controversial electoral provision that would have enabled parties and candidates to directly force social media platforms to remove offensive or defamatory content posted by anonymous authors. In March 2018, a controversial proposal on combatting fake news would have made intermediaries liable if they failed to remove flagged content within 24 hours, without judicial authorization.13 This proposal was dismissed, but similar bills were still in the works (see “Legal Environment”).14
Transparency reports produced by major social media platforms noted an increase in removal requests in the second half of 2017. Between July and December 2017, Google received 236 removal requests for defamation, as well as 194 for privacy and security reasons, and 20 for copyright infringement.15 Facebook’s Transparency Report indicates that 1,137 pieces of content were restricted between July and December 2017, “in compliance with orders from local courts related to civil, criminal, and electoral proceedings.”16 There were 42 removal requests issued to Twitter during the second half of the year, with 19 tweets and 3 accounts withheld.17
Judges have also ruled in favor of removing certain content from news websites and blogs. The National Federation of Journalists (Fenaj) recorded several decisions to remove content during the coverage period: in August 2017 for example, a journalist of the digital news outlet Diário do Poder was asked to delete all pieces he had written about state deputy Antonio Albuquerque, as well as to abstain from publishing about the politician.18 In a welcome decision in September 2017, the Supreme Federal Court suspended an order against the news portal 180 Graus to erase investigative material about a construction company under investigation for irregular contracts, and to refrain from publishing more on the subject.19
Intermediary liability issues have been settled by a case law established by the Brazilian High Court of Justice (STJ) and by statutory provisions enacted by the Marco Civil in 2014, which establishes that internet providers shall not be held liable for civil damages resulting from content created by third parties. The Marco Civil also states that application providers will only be held liable for civil damages resulting from content generated by third parties, should they refuse to follow a court order requesting specific removal of said content.20 In recent years, case law was slowly built around a similar understanding, with the Brazilian STJ ruling towards a judicial notice-and-takedown model.21 Exceptions were made for copyright infringement and “revenge porn,” such as dissemination of sexually explicit photos or videos without the consent of the individual appearing in them. In cases pertaining to revenge porn, the user’s notification alone is enough to make the intermediary liable, should it refuse to make the content unavailable in a short time.22
In November 2016, the Superior Court of Justice (STJ) unanimously ruled that the “right to be forgotten” cannot be imposed on search engines such as Google.23 However, in May 2018, STJ changed its view on the matter, when in a lawsuit against Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft, it granted the “right to be forgotten” to a public prosecutor whose name appeared in search results associated with fraud allegations in a public tender. The decision argued that the information on the prosecutor that appeared in search results was “overcome by the course of time.”24
Although four bills to create a so-called “right to be forgotten” were proposed in Brazil’s Congress, by which search engines would be required to remove links to personal data upon requests by users, legislative proposals had yet to be debated.25 Due to an ongoing political crisis, there has been little progress on the matter.
Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation
Blogs and social networking platforms have become important instruments for citizen journalists and others to access information, defend civil rights, and express political points of views in Brazil. Brazilians can read news from national and international sources without government restriction. Within such a diverse media landscape, some content providers are neutral and others show bias towards or against the government.
Although self-censorship is less pervasive in Brazil than in some neighboring countries, the ongoing use of threats, intimidation, and violence against online journalists and independent bloggers in certain areas of the country has contributed to pockets of continuous self-censorship (see Intimidation and Violence).26
Reports about online disinformation and false news stories circulating on social networks have attracted more attention over the past couple of years, and sparked growing concerns ahead of the 2018 presidential elections (see also “Content Removal”). According to a recent study of 37 countries by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, Brazilian respondents were the most concerned about fake news.27 Another study by the University of São Paulo found that 12 million people spread disinformation about politics in Brazil28
The proliferation of fake news has emerged as a priority concern for the current president of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE), Minister Luiz Fux, who even warned that the elections could be annulled if results were found to be heavily influenced by fake news.29 In December 2017, a “Consultative Council on Internet and Elections” was created under the auspices of the TSE to conceive strategies to prevent and curtail the spread of fake news, bringing together representatives of the government, the army, federal police, the national intelligence agency, and experts.30 The TSE has also engaged with representatives of Brazil’s major political parties and social media platforms in efforts to prevent the dissemination fake news.31
Ever since the approval of the Marco Civil, the principle of Network Neutrality has been incorporated into Brazilian law. Enacted in May 2016, a new decree regulating the Marco Civil solidified the rules that prohibit the discrimination or degradation of traffic for commercial purposes, while permitting it for emergency and public calamity situations.32 Zero-rating and Facebook’s Free Basics program33 are thus considered to be barred by this new legislation, and any notice of violation of said principle by companies may be investigated and sanctioned.34 However, zero-rating is still a common practice among larger mobile internet companies.35
Social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter continue to play a central role in civic activism in Brazil.
Social networks have played a pivotal role in the organization and mobilization of protests for and against the government. After the impeachment of ex-president Dilma Rousseff in mid-2016, protests continued through late 2016 and early 2017, especially to denounce President Temer's economic and social reforms,36 or to support corruption investigations and proposed measures to tackle corruption as part of “Operation Car Wash.”37 In late May 2018, a nationwide truck drivers’ strike brought the country to a halt and was widely commented on and supported by online initiatives.38 However, rumors and fake news about the demands and political views of the truck drivers were widely disseminated through social media, with many claiming the truck drivers sought military intervention. The leaders of the strike, however, denied such claims and attributed those ideas to a minority of infiltrators.39
Citizens also increasingly engage with formal government platforms to express opinions and shape the design and implementation of legislation. Online participation and civic engagement have been especially vibrant during the drafting and regulation of the Marco Civil.40 A new app called Mudamos+ was designed in 2017 as part of an initiative by Instituto Tecnologia e Sociedade (ITS-Rio), in partnership with the Movement Against Electoral Corruption (MCCE). The open-source app uses Blockchain technology to create a secure way to propose and sign popular initiative bills, creating a potentially strong tool of direct democracy through the internet. A bill was proposed in Congress to legitimate electronic signatures in popular initiative bills, which would enable Mudamos+ and similar apps to become legitimate forms of participation.41
Brazil is also a founding member of the Open Government Partnership — a global effort to increase transparency and accountability — and, as part of this effort, has significantly improved standards of access to public information in recent years, establishing a system whereby citizens are entitled to request information through an electronic system.
- 1. “Juiz do Piauí determina suspensão do WhatsApp no Brasil,” [Judge in Piaui decides to suspend WhatsApp in Brazil], Folha de S. Paulo, February 25, 2015, http://bit.ly/2bA4aIF
- 2. Rafael Barifouse, Fernando Duarte, Guilherme Barrucho, “Por que o bloqueio do WhatsApp não vingou –e como isso afetará a briga entre empresas de internet e Justiça” [Why the blocking of WhatsApp did not succeed – and how this will affect the fight between internet companies and Justice], BBC Brasil, December 17, 2015, http://bbc.in/1mbcOmp; “WhatsApp Ordered Blocked Again in Brazil Over Data Dispute,” Bloomberg, May 2, 2016, http://bloom.bg/1rsCA8y; InternetLab, Bloqueios.info, “WhatsApp Case IV - Noncompliance with judicial requests for user data,” July 19, 2016, http://bit.ly/2qXDfio
- 3. Jan Koum (CEO and co-founder of WhatsApp), Facebook post, May 2, 2016, http://bit.ly/2bzZ8zf
- 4. “STF has defined who are the participants for the public hearing about blocking of WhatsApp and the Marco Civil Law,” STF Notícias. April 24, 2017, http://bit.ly/2sTQNfu
- 5. Paula Pecora de Barros, ADPF 403 in STF: Are WhatsApp Blockings Constitutional? InternetLab, Bloqueios.info. http://bit.ly/2ogrBSh
- 6. Felipe Mansur, Bloqueios.info - “ADI 5527 and app blocks: a problem in the wording of the law or in its interpretation?" InternetLab, http://bit.ly/2oGuGqZ
- 7. http://bloqueios.info/en/finding-a-silver-bullet/
- 8. https://noticias.uol.com.br/opiniao/coluna/2016/11/21/para-punir-crimes…
- 9. Law 12.735 of November 30, 2012, http://bit.ly/1sUwjhz
- 10. http://www.tse.jus.br/legislacao-tse/res/2017/RES235512017.html
- 11. This decision occurred outside of the period of coverage of this report. See: http://www.tse.jus.br/imprensa/noticias-tse/2018/Junho/tse-aplica-pela-…
- 12. “Facebook removes pages of Brazil activist network before elections,” Reuters, July 25, 2018, https://reut.rs/2O8wWDu
- 13. IDEC, “Coalizão de Direitos na Rede critica proposta de combate a fake news,” March 5, 2018, https://idec.org.br/noticia/coalizao-de-direitos-na-rede-critica-propos…
- 14. Observacom, “Consejo de Comunicación Social de Brasil aprueba criterios para orientar regulaciones sobre “”noticias falsas”” June 6, 2018, http://www.observacom.org/consejo-de-comunicacion-social-de-brasil-apru…
- 15. Brazil, “Government Requests to Remove Content,” Google, 2017, https://transparencyreport.google.com/government-removals/by-country/BR
- 16. Brazil, “Government Requests Reports,” Facebook, 2017, https://transparency.facebook.com/content-restrictions/country/BR
- 17. Twitter, "Removal requests" Transparency Report, July - December 2017. https://transparency.twitter.com/en/countries/br.html
- 18. Fenaj, “Relatório 2017 - Violência contra jornalistas e liberdade de imprensa no Brasil” [2017 report - Violence against journalists and press freedom in Brazil], p. 31, http://bit.ly/2Fuyl3T
- 19. “Ministro Fachin derruba censura imposta a site de notícias do Piauí,” Conjur.com.br, September 20, 2017, https://www.conjur.com.br/2017-set-20/fachin-derruba-censura-imposta-si…
- 20. See Law 12.965 (Marco Civil da Internet), Art. 18: The provider of connection to internet shall not be liable for civil damages resulting from content generated by third parties. Art. 19: In order to ensure freedom of expression and prevent censorship, the provider of internet applications can only be subject to civil liability for damages resulting from content generated by third parties if, after a specific court order, it does not take any steps to, within the framework of their service and within time stated in the order, make unavailable the content that was identified as being unlawful, unless otherwise provided by law.
- 21. The case law evolved to a notice and takedown model, which means internet providers and content providers were requested to remove the alleged infringing or offensive material within 24 hours upon judicial order. See for instance STJ, Educacional/Yahoo, REsp 1.338.214/MT, decision as of November 13, 2013; STJ, Sassaki/Google, Resp 1.338.214/MT, decision as of December 12, 2012.
- 22. Pereira de Souza, Carlos Affonso, "Responsabilidade civil dos provedores de acesso e de aplicações de Internet: Evolução jurisprudencial e os impactos da Lei Nº 12.965," IN: Lemos, Leite, Marco Civil da Internet, Atlas, 2014.
- 23. “Brazil Superior Court Rules in Google’s Favor Against ‘Right to be Forgotten’,” Global Voices, November 21, 2016, http://bit.ly/2gbZ63L
- 24. STJ, RECURSO ESPECIAL Nº 1.660.168 - RJ, decision as of June 5, 2018. https://ww2.stj.jus.br/websecstj/cgi/revista/REJ.cgi/ITA?seq=1628798&ti…
- 25. “Direito ao esquecimento: Lembrando da Liberdade de Expressão” August, 10, 2016, https://goo.gl/JwChiQ ; See also: Instituto de Tecnologia e Sociedade, “Direito ao esquecimento: o mundo todo precise esquecer?” Brasil Post (blog), August 8, 2015, http://bit.ly/1Hofb7Y; See also the Proposed Bills: Câmara dos Deputados, Projeto de Lei 7881/2014, http://bit.ly/1QAItH8; and Câmara dos Deputados, Projeto de Lei 215/2015, http://bit.ly/1JjdKNY.
- 26. Fenaj, "Violência contra jornalistas e liberdade de imprensa no Brasil - Relatório 2016," January 17, 2017, http://bit.ly/2jQAlfg
- 27. https://reutersinstitute.politics.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/digital-…
- 28. http://gbrasil.com/brasil/detalhe/12-milhoes-difundem-fake-news-no-bras…
- 29. https://www.jota.info/stf/podem-as-fake-news-anular-as-eleicoes-16072018
- 30. https://advox.globalvoices.org/2017/12/31/brazil-introduces-tougher-reg…
- 31. https://riotimesonline.com/brazil-news/rio-politics/brazil-preparing-to…
- 32. Decree 8.771, May 11, 2016, http://bit.ly/2c7Iqqv
- 33. Internet.org changed its name to Free Basics in September 2015.
- 34. Pedro Vilela, “O que muda com o decreto de regulamentação do Marco Civil?” [What changes with the decree regulating Marco Civil?], Instituto de Referência em Internet e Sociedade, May 13, 2016, http://bit.ly/2bLHR39
- 35. Rafael Bucco, “América Móvil reavalia oferta de zero-rating no Brasil,” [America Movil reevaluates zero-rating in Brazil], Telesíntese, August 2, 2016, http://bit.ly/2crx2sB
- 36. “Protestos contra PEC 55 têm ônibus queimado em Brasília e invasão da FIESP” El País, December 14, 2016, http://bit.ly/2gHqk1C
- 37. "Milhares vão às ruas pela Lava-Jato e aumentam pressão sobre o Congresso,” El País, December 5, 2016, http://bit.ly/2oqLMcQ; “Protestos contra reforma da Previdência e terceirização ocorrem em várias cidades,” El País, March 31, 2017, http://bit.ly/2oIiohv
- 38. “Greve dos caminhoneiros: a cronologia dos 10 dias que pararam o Brasil,” BBC, May 30, 2018, https://bbc.in/2xR1Qxz
- 39. Natália Portinari, “Pedir intervenção militar desmoraliza bom caminhoneiro, diz líder,” Folha de São Paulo, May 28, 2018, https://bit.ly/2xR11EJ
- 40. Open Government Partnership, “Brazil,” http://bit.ly/2d8fzoH
- 41. “ITS Rio protocola na Câmara ato para aceitação de assinaturas eletrônicas em leis de iniciativa popular" ITS Rio, March 30, 2017, http://bit.ly/2nFhYJq
Brazil’s Marco Civil Law established a framework for internet users’ rights, but other legal provisions—such as criminal defamation laws and those restricting certain speech during elections—contribute to a legal environment where individuals can face prosecutions for what they write online. In the lead-up to 2018 general elections, a series of bills have sought to criminalize the dissemination of fake news. High levels of violence, coupled with impunity for many crimes, have contributed to one of the highest rates of violence against journalists in the region.
Although Brazil adopted some of the most progressive legislation in the world related to internet governance with the enactment of Marco Civil, several competing legal provisions, such as laws criminalizing defamation and blasphemy and restricting speech around elections, continue to threaten users’ rights online.
The Brazilian Federal Constitution forbids anonymity but protects freedom of the press and freedom of speech, including cultural and religious expression.1 Brazil made noteworthy progress in establishing a foundation for internet user rights with the passage of the Marco Civil Law, a so-called “Constitution for the Internet,” signed into law in April 2014.2 The groundbreaking legislation establishes the right to freedom of expression online, offers detailed privacy protections pertaining to personal data, guarantees net neutrality, and promises to uphold the participatory nature of the internet. On May 11, 2016, during her last hours in office before the impeachment process that suspended her from power, Dilma Rousseff signed into law the decree regulating the Marco Civil law, which contained specific rules regarding net neutrality and data protection.3
Nevertheless, Brazil has continued to see instances of local officials suing bloggers and online journalists for defamation, which is a crime punishable by six months to two years in prison or a fine according to the penal code.4 Although people are rarely charged or imprisoned for racist or discriminatory speech, Brazilian law establishes penalties ranging from two to five years in prison for practicing or inciting discrimination based on race, ethnicity or religion in the media or in other publications.5 The Criminal Code further outlines punishment for vilifying or mocking religion, with penalties ranging from one month to one year in prison, although it is unclear whether these penalties have been applied online.
Brazilian cybercrime law criminalizes breaches of digital privacy such as computer intrusion, the “installation of vulnerabilities,” and editing, obtaining, or deleting information—including credit card numbers—without authorization. The distribution, sale, production, or offer of programs or devices meant to facilitate these actions, or to interrupt ICT services, are also categorized as crimes.6
In the run-up to the 2018 general elections, a series of legislative proposals have sought to criminalize the dissemination of fake news. According to Agência Pública, some 10 draft bills were proposed in the first four months of 2018 alone.7 Penalties for disseminating fake news would range from fines of 1,500 reais (approximately US$40) to up to 8 years of imprisonment.8 However, due to stagnation and restrictions by certain electoral laws, experts have noted that the bills are unlikely to be approved in time to be applicable to the 2018 presidential elections. These proposals raised considerable concerns among digital activists and experts and raised red flags as to the potential mechanisms for censorship and misuse.9
Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities
Defamation lawsuits continued to pose a threat to freedom of expression online in Brazil. Online journalists and bloggers reporting on uncomfortable topics such as corruption frequently face intimidation, including judicial action.
According to reports from the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalists (ABRAJI), at least two cases of prosecution or detention of online reporters were registered during the coverage period. In one instance, a journalist was accused promoting terrorism under the 2016 anti-terrorism law, after infiltrating online forums related to the Islamic State for an investigative piece about terrorist recruitment practices, despite having previously reported his intended activities to the Federal Police. According to the judge, the journalist had ‘[…] surpassed the tolerable limits and positively promoted the terrorist organization […]’.10 In another case, a blogger was arrested after being sued for defamation and libel against a State Prosecutor. She was granted a habeas corpus by a higher appeals court.11
Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity
The Brazilian Constitution explicitly forbids anonymity.12 Although in practice, anonymous speech online is common, judges have occasionally referred to the constitution as a basis for limiting certain instances of anonymous speech. Other judges, however, have upheld anonymous speech on the grounds that it is important for free expression and privacy, ruling that anonymous posts online are protected as long as it is possible to technically trace the speech through IP addresses. The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice (STJ) has held that identification through IP address is a “reasonably effective means for identification” and corresponds to “average diligence” expected from internet providers.13
Several legal provisions also place restrictions on anonymity in Brazil. Real-name registration is required for individuals or legal entities in order to purchase mobile phones or to access private internet connections, although the use of pseudonyms in discussion forums across the web is quite common. Lawmakers have urged further restrictions on anonymity with regard to public access points such as LAN houses in order to prevent cybercrimes. Several pieces of legislation of this kind already exist in states such as São Paulo,14 and a bill under consideration would oblige cybercafes to maintain updated records of their users, including full name, date of birth and identity document number.15
The Brazilian government has continued to increase its capacity for surveillance using major events, such as the August 2016 Olympics Games, as justification. In response to an information request, the Ministry of Defense reported it had spent R$68 million (approximately USD 21 million) between 2014 and 2016 on surveillance equipment.19 Civil society organizations have continued to criticize the lack of transparency on how the government uses surveillance, which is frequently justified as a tool to combat crime.20
Digital rights advocacy organizations have largely supported proposed privacy and data protection legislation. On July 10, 2018, the Senate approved the General Data Protection Act (Bill 53/2018), which President Temer signed in August.21 However, the president vetoed several items of the text, such as the creation of a new National Data Protection Authority, which will be dealt with through another bill.22 The new rules will regulate the use, protection, and transfer of personal data such as name, address, email, age, marital status and property status.
Academics and civil society groups have also sought to push for municipal data protection laws, such as that proposed by LAVITS for the government of the City of São Paulo.23 Much of the impetus for such initiatives came after São Paulo’s new municipal government approved a plan that could allow companies providing internet access to collect the data generated by users of these hotspots for commercial purposes.24 The lack of clear data protection raised concerns among specialists and civil society activists as to how the data would be handled and what would be the rights of its owners.25
Intimidation and Violence
Threats, intimidation, and violence against online journalists and bloggers constitute a major restriction on freedom of expression and human rights in Brazil. Brazil ranked eighth in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2017 Impunity Index.26
In 2017, Internet Reporter Luís Gustavo da Silva was killed in the town of Aquiraz, in the State of Ceará.27 In January 2018, two journalists, Ueliton Brizon and Jefferson Pureza Lopes, were murdered in the space of two days for their reporting work on corruption and critical views on the local government, in the States of Rondônia and Goiás, respectively. Ueliton Brizon was the owner of an online newspaper.28
Intimidation and harassment also remain a serious concern in Brazil. In November 2017, Marcelo Rebelo, journalist for the news site Impacto Atual, was threatened by the president of the city council of Itabirito, José Maria Gonçalves Santos. Disgruntled by Rebelo’s published criticism of his actions in the city council, Gonçalves Santos told the journalist that his “patience was over,” and that he knew where Rebelo lived, worked and parked his car daily.29
In a meeting with a CPJ delegation in 2014, the ex-President Dilma Rousseff committed to support legislative initiatives to grant the federal government authority to judge crimes against freedom of expression and to adopt a “zero tolerance” policy toward violations of freedom of expression.30 Since then, the 2015 conviction of the murderers of José Roberto Ornelas de Lemos, the administrative director of the daily Hora H, has been considered a benchmark for justice and human rights. Lemos was shot at least 41 times in 2013 after writing about the spread of militias allegedly led by corrupt police officers in the suburb of Nova Iguaçu. In November 2015, police arrested six people accused of running a militia believed to be directly linked to Lemos’ murder. The arrests also resulted in the creation of a new homicide division in the city.31 However, most investigations and prosecutions still only target the direct perpetrators of crimes, allowing planners and other accomplices to escape justice.
Brazil remains a top source and target of cyberattacks: According to Akamai, in the last quarter of 2017, Brazil was the fourth source country in the world for web application attacks, and the second most targeted, maintaining its position compared with the same period in 2016.32 The Norton Cyber Security Insights Report estimated a financial loss of U$22.5 billion due to cybercrime in Brazil in 2017, affecting 62.2 million users.33
In late May 2018, during the nationwide truck drivers’ strike, several hacker groups and individuals launched attacks against websites of politicians and political parties from both the left and the right, declaring support for the strike. Attacked and defaced pages included those of the Labor Party,34 the Brazilian Social Democracy Party,35 and the official site of the prefecture of the City of Belo Horizonte.36
Brazilian authorities have made some efforts to increase cybersecurity and invest more resources in overcoming current obstacles. Since 2008, Brazil has engaged in a multi-stakeholder debate to develop its cybersecurity agenda, which resulted in the opening of a National Cyber Defense Command, and a National School for Cyber Defense aimed at preparing military personnel for the use of cyber tools on national defense.37
- 1. Constituição Federal de 1988, [Federal Constitution of 1988], English translation: http://bit.ly/1iOdLz
- 2. Law 12.965, April 23, 2014, http://bit.ly/1kxaoKm; See also English version by Carolina Rossini, distributed by CGI.Br at the end of Net Mundial event: http://bit.ly/1jerSOK
- 3. Decree 8.771, May 11, 2016, http://bit.ly/2c7Iqqv
- 4. Decree 2848/40, Penal Code, Art. 331, http://bit.ly/1OV4Vwj
- 5. Law 9.459, May 13, 1997, Art. 20, http://bit.ly/2dYnwN3
- 6. Esterban Israel, “ Brazil Aims to Bring Order to Lawless Cybers,” Reuters, February 26, 2013, http://reut.rs/2Atct6X
- 7. https://apublica.org/2018/05/20-projetos-de-lei-no-congresso-pretendem-…
- 8. http://www.observacom.org/consejo-de-comunicacion-social-de-brasil-apru…
- 9. “Fake News: iniciativas legislativas não devem violar garantias fundamentais,” Instituto de Referência em Internet e Sociedade, March 5, 2018, http://irisbh.com.br/fake-news-iniciativas-legislativas-nao-devem-viola…
- 10. “Jornalista é réu por terrorismo após se infiltrar em grupos de simpatizantes do ISIS para fazer reportagem,” ABRAJI, April 2018., https://bit.ly/2ITsc76
- 11. “Justiça de Alagoas concede habeas corpus a blogueira presa por calúnia e difamação contra procurador-geral do Estado,” ABRAJI, April 2018, https://bit.ly/2smJhv7
- 12. Constituição Federal de 1988, art. 5, http://bit.ly/1FieR0R
- 13. See Brazilian Superior Court of Justice Appeals to the Superior Court of Justice No. 1192208-MG, REsp 1186616-MG and REsp 1300161-RS
- 14. Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo, Law 12228/2006, http://bit.ly/2nuRWbN
- 15. http://www.camara.gov.br/proposicoesWeb/fichadetramitacao?idProposicao=…
- 16. Law No. 12.965, Government of Brazil, April 23, 2014. English version by Carolina Rossini, distributed by CGI.Br at the end of Net Mundial event, available at http://bit.ly/1jerSOK
- 17. Coding Rights and Instituto Beta para Internet e a Democracia, “Nota Técnica: Retenção de Registros de Conexão e Aplicações,” [Technical note: Retention of connection and application logs], accessed October 12, 2016, http://bit.ly/2egPy7C
- 18. Decree 8.771, May 11, 2016, http://bit.ly/2c7Iqqv; See also: Artigo 19, “Regulamentação do Marco Civil da Internet é um avanço,” [Regulation of Marco Civil is a breakthrough], May 20, 2016, http://bit.ly/2dYbhjf
- 19. Natalia Viana, “Armed Forces want to use cell phone blockers against ‘hostile’ drones and terrorism in the Olympics,” Publica - Reporting Agency And Investigative Journalism, June 30, 2016, http://bit.ly/2ocGIvA
- 20. Dennus Antonialli & Jacqueline de Souza Abreu, “Vigilância das Comunicações pelo Estado Brasileiro,” Internetlab Association of Research In Law and Technology, 2016, http://bit.ly/2he8se4
- 21. https://www25.senado.leg.br/web/atividade/materias/-/materia/133486
- 22. https://www.zdnet.com/article/brazilian-president-signs-data-protection…
- 23. “Pesquisadores do LAVITS propõem adoção de lei municipal para proteção de dados pessoais,” LAVITS, May 26, 2017, http://lavits.org/pesquisadores-da-lavits-propoem-adocao-de-lei-municip…
- 24. Bruno R. Bioni, “Expansão do Wi-Fi público às ‘custas” de dados pessoais” [Expansion of Public Wi-Fi at the ‘expense’ of personal data], Jota, July 17, 2017, http://bit.ly/2HbPlwg
- 25. Bruno Bioni, “Expansão do Wi-Fi púbico às ‘custas’ de dados pessoais,” Jota, July 17, 2017, https://www.jota.info/opiniao-e-analise/colunas/agenda-da-privacidade-e…
- 26. Elisabeth Witchel, “Getting Away With Murder,” Committee to Protect Journalists, October 31, 2017,
- 27. “Luís Gustavo da Silva,” Comittee to Protect Journalists, June 2017, https://cpj.org/data/people/luis-gustavo-da-silva/index.php
- 28. “Two Brazilian journaists murdered in two days,” Reporters Without Borders, January 2018, https://bit.ly/2DkOHei
- 29. Fenaj, “Relatório 2017 - Violência contra jornalistas e liberdade de imprensa no Brasil” [2017 report - Violence against journalists and press freedom in Brazil], http://bit.ly/2Fuyl3T
- 30. Committee to Protect Journalists, “Getting Away With Murder,” October 8, 2015, http://bit.ly/1G1HEGQ
- 31. Andrew Downie, “Amid rising violence in Brazil, convictions in journalists’ murders are cause for optimism,” Committee to Protect Journalists, February 29, 2016, http://bit.ly/1MHdHtS
- 32. Akamai Technologies Inc., “Akamai’s [state of the internet] / Security Q4 2017 report,” http://bit.ly/2Iii3gm
- 33. Symantec Corporation, “Norton Cyber Security Insights Report 2017,”http://symc.ly/2G8VNnU
- 34. “Site do PT hackeado em apoio aos caminhoneiros em greve,” Tecmundo, May 28, 2018, https://www.tecmundo.com.br/seguranca/130696-site-pt-hackeado-apoio-cam…
- 35. “Site do PSDB é hackeado contra Presidente Michel Temer,” Tecmundo, May 30, 2018, https://bit.ly/2xSlcSF
- 36. Gabrielle Monteiro, “Site da PBH é invadido por hackers em apoio aos caminhoneiros em greve,” R7, May 30, 2018, https://bit.ly/2JnAZKz
- 37. Andrea Barreto, “Brazilian Armed Forces Strengthen the Nation’s Cybersecurity Defense,” Diálogo Digital Military Magazine, April 14, 2015, http://bit.ly/1FinqJ7
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score75 100 free
Internet Freedom Score64 100 partly free