Political scientists Bruno de Moura Borges and Maurício Santoro, from the Department of International Relations of the State University of Rio de Janeiro, published a paper analysing the Brazilian foreign policy towards Internet Governance, explaining how Brazil achieved a global leadership role in the issues of privacy and surveillance after the revelations of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The research is based upon works that the authors developed for Amnesty International and Duke University on the relationship between information technology, diplomacy and human rights.
Internet governance is a major issue in global negotiations, with deep impacts for economic development, telecommunications policy and human rights. However, its study is only beginning among researchers of international relations in Brazil, with few studies up to now.
For Borges and Santoro the NSA scandal pushed the Brazilian government to act in response to the pressures of public opinion regarding the scale of American surveillance against top authorities and companies in the country. Brazil´s responses was a creative mix of diplomatic initiatives and domestic measures. At the United Nations, Brazil and Germany co-sponsored two resolutions in the General Assembly establishing patterns for the protection of privacy on the Internet. They may become the basis for an international treaty on the subject. Brazil also supported similar actions at the Human Rights Council.
At the domestic level, the global impact of the NSA surveillance disclosures was crucial to approve the innovative domestic legislation of the Marco Civil da Internet, which has articles covering freedom of expression, privacy and Net neutrality, making it one of the most comprehensive laws about the Web. The Marco Civil faced strong opposition from corporate interests in telecommunications, but at the end the international scenario created an opportunity for its supporters.
Brazil also played an important role as the host of the two most important multi-stakeholder conferences on Internet governance, such as NETMundial and the UN Internet Governance Forum. Both happened in Brazil as a recognition of the efforts of the Brazilian government and they helped to build an international coalition supporting the country´s proposals, although in a more moderate tone.
Brazil was able to respond in a quick way to the international pressures because there was a long experience in the country of multistakeholder networks linking officials, activists and members of the technical community of the Internet. This bond started in the 2000 decade, with the formulation of public policies supporting open software, and these relationships were important in providing the Brazilian government with information, ideas and political support to propose new regulations for the Web, from the Marco Civil to the UN resolutions.
However, the Brazilian leadership is still very unstable, and it depends on fragile political alliances in Congress, where many politicians want to curb the Marco Civil and change its most important articles. Another challenge is the Judicial branch, as some judges are taking controversial decisions concerning the Internet, sometimes due to the lack of knowledge about the Web. Without a strong consensus inside the country, it is doubtful that Brazil is going to play an important role in the global Internet governance.
Read the article
Santoro, Maurício, & Borges, Bruno. (2017). Brazilian Foreign Policy Towards Internet Governance. Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, 60(1), e003. Epub February 06, 2017.https://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201600111
Bruno de Moura Borges – UERJ – Departamento de Relações Internacionais, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
Maurício Santoro – UERJ – Departamento de Relações Internacionais, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil