The Strengths and Weaknesses of the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights: Examining a Human Rights Framework for the Internet

The Marco Civil da Internet (MCI) — also known variously as the Brazilian Internet Bill of Rights, Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet or the Internet constitution — was approved in Brazil in April 2014 after more than seven years of intense national and international debate and a series of postponed votes in the Brazilian Congress. It established rights of Internet users, state obligations to foster Internet use, and duties and liabilities of companies — both Internet connection providers and Internet application providers. It thus challenges actors that purport to be digital and borderless to abide by a deeply national geographic law. The legislation was celebrated, from the user’s perspective, as one of the most innovative and protective Internet regulations in the world. Until recently, however, no systematic methodology existed to evaluate this kind of legislation on its strengths and weaknesses as a human rights framework. As the MCI will form the basis for other laws and judicial interpretation — in Brazil and elsewhere, including human rights laws — developing and standardizing a process to evaluate its human rights dimensions becomes essential. This paper takes the methodologies first developed by former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression Frank La Rue and applies them to the MCI as a first step toward evaluating its treatment of human rights online.