Defender of your Digital Freedom

All Posts | May 08,2014

Marco Civil da Internet – the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights

President Dilma Rousseff signed into law Marco Civil da Internet, often dubbed as the Internet Bill of Rights, on April 23, 2014 at NETmundial, the Global Multistakeholder meeting on Internet Governance. The Bill was earlier passed by the Congress on March 25, 2014 and the Senate on April 22, 2014.

The President while speaking at the NETmundial said that "The internet you want is only possible in an environment of respect for human rights, especially privacy and freedom of expression". The bill was keenly followed by internet freedom activists all over the world as it promised to guarantee rights of freedom of expression and privacy as well as assure net neutrality. The bill was drafted by a collaborative process involving general public and various organisations and this was seen as a model that could be followed by the rest of the world. The final legislation lays down principles that stresses on freedom of expression, privacy, data protection and network neutrality.

The section of the legislation on net neutrality stipulates providers not to discriminate between data packages and to treat them in the same manner irrespective of content, origin and destination, service, terminal or application.

The section on intermediary liability protects intermediaries from any liability arising from user generated content. It is states that " 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 an specific court order, it does not take any steps to, within the framework of their service and within the time stated in the order, make unavailable the content that was identified as being unlawful, unless otherwise provided by law"

The unofficial English translation of Marco Civil da Internet prepared by Carolina Rossini is given here. SFLC.IN will be coming out with a detailed analysis of the legislation soon.

All Posts | Apr 28,2014

Civil Society Closing Statement At NETmundial 2014

The Civil Society has expressed deep disappointment that the NETmundial outcome document has failed to address key concerns like surveillance and net neutrality. Best Bits, a civil society network, has come up with the following statement. The statement has been endorsed by a number of civil society organisations including EFF, Article 19 and JustNet Coalition, of which SFLC.IN is a constituent.

Civil society closing statement at NETmundial 2014

  • We would like to thank the Brazilian government for organizing the Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance.

  • We, as a diverse group of civil society organizations from around the world, appreciate having been part of the process.

  • However we are disappointed because that outcome document fails to adequately reflect a number of our key concerns.

  • The lack of acknowledgement of net neutrality at NETmundial is deeply disappointing.

  • Mass surveillance has not been sufficiently denounced as being inconsistent with human rights and the principle of proportionality.

  • And although the addition of language on Internet intermediary liability is welcomed, the failure of the draft text to ensure due process safeguards could undermine the rights to freedom of expression and privacy.
  • We feel that this document has not sufficiently moved us beyond the status quo in terms of the protection of fundamental rights, and the balancing of power and influence of different stakeholder groups.

All Posts | Apr 23,2014

NetMundial Submissions

The JustNet Coalition, of which SFLC.IN is a member, supports immediate reform of the present Internet Governance ecosystem and has accordingly made the following submissions to theMultistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance, being hosted by the Brazilian Government in April 2014.

All Posts | Apr 23,2014

The Delhi Declaration

Just Net Coalition is a group of civil society organizations working in the realm of Internet governance, human rights and social justice who have joined hands with the vision of a just and equitable Internet for the people of the world. SFLC.IN is a constituent of the Just Net Coalition. The following declaration was adopted by the members at a meeting held in Delhi in February 2014.

The Internet has become a vitally important social infrastructure that profoundly impacts our societies. We are all citizens of an Internet-mediated world whether as the minority who uses it or the majority who does not. The Internet must advance human rights and social justice. Internet governance must be truly democratic.

The Internet is reorganising public institutions, including for governance, welfare, health, and education, as well as key sectors such as media, communications, transport and finance. It has transformed the way we do many things but the benefits promised for all have not been adequately realized. On the contrary - we have seen mass surveillance, abusive use of personal data and their use as a means of social and political control; the monopolization, commodification and monetisation of information and knowledge; inequitable flows of finances between poor and rich countries; and erosion of cultural diversity. Many technical, and thus purportedly 'neutral', decisions have in reality led to social injustice as technology architectures, often developed to promote vested interests, increasingly determine social, economic, cultural and political relationships and processes.

Opportunities for the many to participate in the very real benefits of the Internet, and to fully realize its enormous potential, are being thwarted by growing control of the Internet by those with power - large corporations and certain national governments. They use their central positions of influence to consolidate power and to establish a new global regime of control and exploitation; under the guise of favouring liberalization, they are in reality reinforcing the dominance and profitability of major corporations at the expense of the public interest, and the overarching position of some national interests at the expense of global interests and well being.

Existing governance arrangements for the global Internet are inadequate. They suffer from a lack of democracy; an absence of legitimacy, accountability and transparency; excessive corporate influence and regulatory capture; and too few opportunities for effective participation by people, especially from developing countries. The situation can be remedied only through fundamental changes to the current governance arrangements.

The governance of the Internet must proceed from the position that inter-connectivity cannot serve human rights and social justice unless it leads to and supports distributed power, particularly to the grassroots but also across the various Internet divides—social, economic, political. Ensuring that the Internet does not in fact lead to greater centralisation of power will therefore require appropriate interventions at all levels of Internet governance. Building an effective framework to achieve these objectives is the greatest challenge today in terms of global governance of the Internet.

In this light, we put forward the following principles. These should underpin the emergence of an Internet that advances human rights and social justice globally, and the reconfiguration of Internet governance into a truly democratic space.

The Internet as a Global Commons for Human Rights and Social Justice:

1. The Internet is a key social medium and, in crucial respects, a global commons: it is a site for global knowledge and information exchange, a space for free expression and association, a means for democratic deliberation and participation, a channel for delivery of essential social and public services, and a scaffold for new models of economic activity. Therefore, all the world’s people, including those not at present connected to the Internet, must be able to collaboratively shape the evolution of the Internet through appropriately transparent, democratic and participatory governance processes.

2. The Internet must be used only for peaceful purposes and this must be recognised by states in a binding and enforceable instrument.

3. The Internet economy, like other areas of the global economy, must be subject to fair and equitable collection and distribution of tax revenues around the world recognising that the concentration of global North based international e-commerce is a threat to the tax revenues of the global South.

4. The Internet must be maintained as a public space. Where a divergence emerges between the utility of the Internet for public interest purposes and the particular interests of Internet service or technology companies, the public interest must take priority, and the service must be subjected to regulation as a public utility.

5. Net neutrality, and similar 'platform neutrality' in higher layers of the Internet, must be ensured in order to preserve online diversity and to prevent monopolies in either content or in the provision of essential public services, in mobile as well as fixed network architectures.

6. An open and decentralized Internet requires strict enforcement of open and public standards. Open standards allow fully interoperable implementation by anyone in any type of software, including Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). The trend towards privatisation of digital standards must be stemmed and measures must be introduced to ensure that standards are publicly owned, freely accessible and implementable.

7. The architecture for cloud computing should enhance digital functionality and efficiencies without reducing user control and choices. It should also enable users to have adequate legal protections either through domestic jurisdictions or effective international agreements.

8. The Internet’s basic or essential functionalities and services, such as email, web search facilities, and social networking platforms, must be made available to all people as public goods.

9. People must be able to enjoy all their rights and entitlements as citizens, even if they choose not to have Internet access. Access to and use of the Internet should not become a requirement for access to public services.

10. Community-owned and not-for-profit infrastructure, applications, services and content, must be encouraged and enabled including through access to public funding and by other means.

11. The right to access and contribute to the development of the Internet, including its content, particularly of marginalised and/or minority groups is essential to maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity and must be secured through protective discrimination and affirmative action.

12. Personal and social data must belong respectively to the relevant individual and social group. Policy frameworks for operationalising such effective control and ownership of digital data must be developed.

A Rights Framework for truly Democratic Governance of the Internet

13. The Internet must be governed recognising that in crucial respects it comprises a global commons. All layers of Internet architecture must therefore be designed to safeguard against concentration of power and centralized control.

14. All people have the right to freedom of expression online. Any restrictions, on grounds of security concerns or otherwise, must be for strictly defined purposes and in accordance with globally accepted principles of necessity, proportionality and judicial oversight.

15. All people must have the right to use the Internet without mass surveillance. Any surveillance, on grounds of security concerns or otherwise, must be for strictly defined purposes and in accordance with globally accepted principles of necessity, proportionality and judicial oversight.

16. At the global level, there is a severe democratic deficit in Internet governance. Appropriate platforms and mechanisms for global governance of the Internet, that are democratic and participative, must be established urgently. These must be anchored to the UN system, and include explicit provisions to design and enable innovative methods for ongoing and deep participation of non-governmental actors in policy making processes. Participating non-governmental actors must in turn be subject to appropriate transparency requirements, in particular regarding sources of funding, membership and decision-making processes.

17. The right to make Internet-related public policies must lie only with those who legitimately and directly represent people. While there is a pressing need to deepen democracy through innovative methods of participatory democracy, these cannot include - in the name of multi-stakeholderism - new kinds of formal political power for corporate or partisan interests.

18. Governance systems must be based on the recognition that the Internet has an impact on society that the technical community, with its singular focus on technical issues, lacks the legitimacy to determine.

19. The laws of any one country or one group of countries cannot control or constitute international technical and public policy governance structures. Management of critical resources of the Internet must be internationalised. Current control by the US of the DNS/root zone must thus be replaced by a new transparent, accountable and internationally representative institution responsible for the oversight of critical Internet resource management functions.

20. Every country must have the right to connect to the Internet. No country can have the unilateral ability to disconnect another country or a region from the Internet.

21. The rights of individuals and states must be articulated and protected with regard to the Internet including through the creation of appropriate enforcement mechanisms. Such mechanisms are required at both the domestic and international levels, and should include dispute resolution mechanisms.

All Posts | Apr 07,2014

NetMundial – Global Multi-stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance

The Global Multi-stakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance will take place in São Paulo, Brazil on 23rd & 24th April, 2014. The meeting will focus on crafting Internet governance principles and proposing a roadmap for the further evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem.

Prof. Virgílio Fernandes Almeida, Coordinator of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and Secretary for Information Technology Policy of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, will be the Chair of the meeting.

To support the committees and operationalize their decisions, a Secretariat has been formed and headed by Daniel Fink who is empowered as the Secretariat full-time Executive Director. The Secretariat, located in Sao Paulo, is responsible for all aspects of management and operations to ensure the success of the meeting including: logistics, finance, risk, content contributions, and communications. For more information, visit http://www.cgi.br/brmeeting/announcement2.html

via www.cgi.br

All Posts | Mar 25,2014

NETmundial submission from Best Bits

The undersigned civil society organisations and individuals are pleased to contribute the following submission to the discussion of Internet governance principles at the April 2014 Brazil NETmundial meeting.

We are pleased to note the NETmundial organisers’ clear focus on human rights, particularly as this submission specifically addresses the imperative of adopting a human rights based approach to Internet governance, both in terms of 1) providing a framing for Internet governance policy discussions, deliberations and decision-making generally, and 2) providing principles-based underpinnings to the governance processes and participation mechanisms themselves.

The fundamental importance of human rights to Internet governance is broadly understood and accepted but does necessitate further elaboration and greater commitment from all stakeholders - it is all too easy to state that policies and mechanisms are human rights respecting, but lip-service is not enough. Human rights must be core to Internet governance and we must be explicit in terms of what that actually means.

This submission links to two sets of existing and recognized principles that directly address human rights and the Internet:

  • The Internet Rights and Principles Coalition Charter of human rights and principles for the Internet (IRP Charter)
  • And, the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) Internet Rights Charter
The Internet is an enabler and catalyst of human rights. As is stated in APC’s Charter the "ability to share information and communicate freely using the internet is vital to the realisation of human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1976), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1976) and the Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW, 1980)."

The Internet can only be a catalyst of human rights if the principles that frame and underpin the governance of the Internet are based on human rights. The importance of human rights based Internet governance is clearly stated in the IRP Charter of Human Rights and Principles for the Internet: "The Internet and the communications system must be governed in such a way as to ensure that it upholds and expands human rights to the fullest extent possible."

Both the IRP Charter and the APC Charter look specifically at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and elaborate on how its articles relate to the Internet and its use and governance. For example, both Charters look at Article 12 of the UDHR on the right to privacy and elaborate on what that means for the Internet, including the importance of national legal frameworks that are in line with human rights, the right to communicate anonymously and to use encryption technologies, and the right to communicate free from the threat of arbitrary surveillance and interception.

We believe that any discussion of Internet principles or policies must be guided by, consistent with and respectful of human rights and the APC and IRP Charters provide a clear and unequivocal assertion of that imperative.

The importance of human rights or a human rights framing to Internet governance is supported by a diversity of Internet (governance and policy) principles from a diversity of stakeholder groupings, including, among others, the following:

  • 2011 Council of Europe Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on Internet governance principles: Principle 1 - Human rights, democracy and the rule of law

  • 2009 CGI.br Principles for the governance and use of the Internet: Principle 1 - Freedom, privacy and human rights
  • 2011 G8 Deauville Declaration - Renewed Commitment for Freedom and Democracy: Paras 5, II.5, II.9 and II.13
Internet governance is also dependent upon the realisation and safeguarding of human rights: the freedoms of expression and association are essential to participatory and inclusive governance processes - without the realisation of these rights it is quite possible that such governance processes would not exist. While the Internet is a catalyst or enabler of rights, it is also dependent upon a rights-based governance model for it to thrive and for its users to be empowered.

Internet governance comprises a range of process and participation mechanisms that aspire to be characterized by openness, transparency, inclusivity and accountability, among others. These characteristics correlate broadly to existing human rights, and in particular those enumerated in Articles 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the UDHR (and 18, 19, 22 and 25 of the ICCPR). These characteristics are central to rights-based governance - among others, they support individuals and communities voicing their opinions and concerns, encourage participation by all interested stakeholders on an equal footing, allow for transparent and open decision-making processes, and ensure stakeholders are accountable to their communities and for the decisions they take.

These governance characteristics are further elaborated on in

  • APC’s Charter Theme 6 on the "Governance of the Internet," which calls for the full involvement of all stakeholders in Internet governance, transparency and accessibility, a decentralized, collaborative and interoperable Internet, open architecture and open standards, among others; and,

  • IRPC’s Charter Principle 19 on the "Right to Appropriate Social and International Order for the Internet," which calls for governance that upholds and expands human rights, multilingualism and pluralism on the Internet, and the right of everyone to participate in the governance of the Internet, among others.
  • They are also highlighted in the CGI.br’s second principle entitled "Democratic and collaborative governance." These same principles also characterize the multi-stakeholder model, as in the Council of Europe’s second principle entitled "multi-stakeholder governance" and para 20 of the G8 Deauville Declaration (documents mentioned above).
We believe that these key governance characteristics - openness, transparency, inclusivity, accountability, and equitable multistakeholder participation among others - should form the basis of a set of process and participation principles for Internet governance that should be an output of the NETmundial meeting. They would then frame and provide a common understanding of the ways in which Internet governance discussions, deliberations and decision-making would occur. (A separate submission to the NETmundial meeting on the evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem addresses these characteristics in more detail.)

We strongly believe that the NETmundial meeting should reaffirm the importance of human rights to both 1) Internet governance more broadly (and any associated principles or roadmap for the evolution of the Internet governance ecosystem) and 2) the processes and participation mechanisms that underpin Internet governance.

We trust that this contribution and the linked sets of principles will form a central element in the discussions on Internet governance principles.


All Posts | Mar 24,2014

A critique of the multistakeholder model by Jérémie Zimmermann

The "Internet Governance" Farce and its "Multi-stakeholder" Illusion

by Jérémie Zimmermann

For almost 15 years, "Internet Governance" meetings1have been drawing attention and driving our imaginaries towards believing that consensual rules for the Internet could emerge from global "multi-stakeholder" discussions. A few days ahead of the "NETmundial" Forum in Sao Paulo it has become obvious that "Internet Governance" is a farcical way of keeping us busy and hiding a sad reality: Nothing concrete in these 15 years, not a single action, ever emerged from "multi-stakeholder" meetings, while at the same time, technology as a whole has been turned against its users, as a tool for surveillance, control and oppression.

Citizens of the world must think of the critical challenges ahead: End mass surveillance, protect freedoms online without compromise, guarantee Net neutrality, enable universal access to the Free Internet… None of which can be adressed in these sterile "multistakeholder" discussions, with rigged lists of participants2, but only with proper political contexts set by decentralized networks of citizens, organized through a Free Internet.

Through the alternative sitehttp://netmundial.netand many other decentralized modes of organisations, citizens of the world are asking their government for something else than the "Internet Governance" farce.

Why would we need to wait for these "multi-stakeholder" hyper-structures to properly function, if ever, before anything could be done3? There is actually an already existing structure for collective management of the Internet: We, citizens, are allco-ownersof the Internet, if we consider it as the sum of its infrastructure, its technologies, and much more importantly the sum of activities, data and content thatwe, all, contribute to make it exist.

In this sense,Internet can and must be considered as a common good.

This is precisely what we must demand from governments now, from the warm ashes of the dead "multi-stakeholder" model, crushed under the boots of unilateral decisions of NSA, Google, Facebook, China, Apple, Russia, and all the others actors who didn't wait for a consensus to take radical steps to alter the shape of technology to turn it against citizens.

Governments must consider the Internet as our common good, and protect it as such, with no compromise. Like the most precious natural reserve, or patch of clean drinking water. From then we must engage into a profound debate on the nature of the trust we place into private or public actors ("trustees") who will manage this resource. What conditions of transparency and accountability (such as the use of Free/Libre software and the ability for the public to verify it) shall we demand, in a democratic society, to those who are responsible for protecting our fundamental freedoms, by their control over part of our common infrastructure?

This is the nature of the debate we wish had emerged from NETmundial, under the courageous impulsion of president Dilma Roussef. Alas, it looks like she would rather bend under the pressure of the US4, the EU5, and industrial interests. Will a message from citizens all around the world ever be able to alter this bland status quo? It must be attempted anyway!

Please join us by signing the message athttp://netmundial.net, spreading it around, and engaging actively into dismantling the illusion of "multistakeholder Internet Governance".

This article is reposted fromLaquadrature.net