Censura Não!: Brazilian Bloggers Protest New Cybercrime Bill

By: amina on 25 July 2008

Brazil’s blogosphere has been overflowing with dissent over the most recent cybercrime legislation proposed by Senator Eduardo Azeredo. At the Blog Carnival Against Censorship this Saturday, bloggers expressed their overwhelming opposition to the Digital Crimes Bill. Global Voices Online recently summed up bloggers’ opinions on the bill, which introduces 13 new, punishable cybercrimes. Reporters Without Borders expressed concern over the bill’s unclear wording, warning that the bill is a serious, potential threat to online free speech and has encouraged Internet users to sign an e-petition calling for more transparency in the bill.

Originally introduced in 2005, the bill first received widespread censure from the online community in 2006 for a stipulation that would force users to give detailed information about themselves to their ISPs before being allowed to use the Internet. The legislation was viewed not simply – as Azeredo claimed - an attempt to “discourage hackers, libel, and to stop cybercrime,” but also as a way for ISPs and government agencies to track Internet use; a threat to users right to privacy. Despite the online community’s victory in blocking the bill in 2006, today the bill has taken on a more stringent form, adding to its list of punishable web activities and increasing government surveillance and control.

Despite the Senate’s claim that the bill is intended to curb cybercrime and prevent child abuse, and its titling of a recent Cybercrimes Project report “Threat to the Freedom of Expression of Internet Users in Brazil,” bloggers remain skeptical of their government’s intentions. At the “Carnival,” bloggers such as J.C. Caribé compared this piece of legislation to the authoritarian practices following the military coup of 1964, accusing the Brazilian Congress of “chorando lagrimes de crocodilo” or “crying crocodile tears.” By not clearly defining punishable offenses, the bill provides loopholes for the government to trample on individual rights to privacy and freedom of expression, a dangerous trend which has been common place in a country whose recent history has been dominated by military dictatorships.