Brazil: The Cybercrimes Bill meets the “Cybercriminal” Camp

The Brazilian Cybercrimes Bill proposed by Senator Eduardo Azeredo [Pt] is always a source of big controversy (read more here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here). It's no surprise then that the controversy should grow further when this bill is brought into debate at a huge cyberculture meeting. This is exactly what happened at Campus Party Brasil 2009, when Azeredo's aide José Henrique Portugal, and High Court Judge Fernando Botelho, were invited to defend the Bill in a debate [Pt] with the raging crowds of bit-torrent-using p2p-addicted geek Campus Party goers.

Summarizing, Alberto Marques, at gJOL blog [Pt] said:

“Portugal e Botelho tiveram muita dificuldade para apresentar seu ponto de vista sobre o projeto, sofrendo intensos protestos.”

“Portugal and Botelho had a hard time presenting their point of view on the bill, and faced strong protests [during the debate].”


José Henrique Portugal facing the audience that protested against the privacy violations and authoritarianism presented by the Cybercrimes Bill

Meme de Carbono blog features a long post discussing the Cybercrimes Bill in the face of the new age of communication and democracy brought by the Internet, listing many reasons to agree and even more to disagree with Azeredo's Bill. He explains in a few words [Pt] why the Cybercrimes Bill has faced such strong opposition from Brazilian digital citizens:

“Caso o projeto de lei de cibercrimes seja aprovado você terá medo de se expressar.
A liberdade de expressão apoiada pela Internet é uma grande ameaça a uma estrutura de poder estabelecida entre mídia, governos e corporações.
O poder estabelecido está acostumado a comunicar e não a interagir com seu ouvinte, mas nós queremos ser interlocutores do nosso tempo.
A pressa em aprovar a criminalização dos cibercrimes não vem de um apelo popular, mas dos interesses do poder estabelecido que defende uma forma de democracia que não é mais suficiente.”

“If the cybercrimes bill is approved, we will be afraid to express ourselves.
The freedom of speech supported by the Internet is a great menace to the power established by media, governments and corporations.
These established powers are used to speaking to, but not to interacting with, their subjects. But we want to take part in the conversations in these new times.
The haste they have to approve the criminalization of said cybercrimes does not come from the urging of the masses but from the interests of the established powers that defend a form of democracy that is no longer good enough for us.”


From left to right: Ronaldo Lemos, Sérgio Amadeu, the chair of the debate (in the middle), Fernando Botelho and José Portugal.


The public applauding Sergio Amadeu's speech defending web anonymity and attacking the ‘Azeredo Bill'.


Left banner: “We defend Internet Anonymity”. Right banner: “Defend the future of the Internet in Brazil and around the World”.


“Internet Freedom = Democracy”

But a few minutes before the last speaker finished his speech, event organizers informed the public that they would not be allowed to ask questions to the panelists, because the “debate” had taken too long and would have to finish due to other events scheduled in the room. Daniel Padua complains [Pt] about the lack of a real public debate on the “debate”:

“Debate sobre lei de cibercrimes poderia ter entrado para a história com a participação direta da sociedade (o que faltou à audiência pública): o evento foi interrompido pela presença do governador em exercício próximo ao debate.”

“The debate on the Cybercrimes Bill could have made history with the massive participation of society (which was lacking in the public hearing [held in Brasília last November]: but the event was cut short because the next debate would have the governor in office as a speaker.”


Tux, the Linux penguin, holds a banner that reads “Say no to Online Surveillance”.

Jorge Araújo, a Brazilian judge behind the Direito e Trabalho blog, criticizes [Pt] the intention to create new crimes for the already bulging Brazilian Penal Code:

“Os defensores da lei estão errados ao buscar que se emplaque mais uma norma ao nosso combalido sistema jurídico, prevendo penas de prisão, quando sabemos que ladrões e assassinos são soltos diariamente justamente em virtude da falência de nosso sistema prisional […] Por outro lado para que se criminalize um delito é necessário que ele traga à sociedade um verdadeiro clamor, do tipo que antes de ser considerado crime ele já receba a censura da sociedade. […] Não é o que ocorre com os delitos que se pretendem penalizar. Pelo contrário muitas práticas que se pretendem penalizas são adotadas pela grande maioria dos presentes na Campus Party e desconhecidas pelo restante da população para o qual o computador é, quando muito, uma máquina de escrever sem papel.”

“Those who defend this bill are wrong when they try to stamp one more law on our already crashing judiciary system, charging imprisonment penalties [for indicted “cybercriminals”] when we all know that thieves and murderers are released everyday as our failing judicial system is not able to judge them […] On the other hand, an action can only be considered criminal when it raises a clamor in society, in a way that means before being considered a crime, that action is already criticized by the same society. […] This is not what happens to the actions that [the bill] is trying to criminalize. Many practices that the [Cybercrimes Bill] seeks to criminalize are commonplace among all people present at Campus Party, and virtually unknown to the rest of the [Brazilian] population who see computers as paperless typewriters, at best.”


Many people wore red clown noses and protested against being turned into criminals by the Cybercrimes Bill.

Later on in the same post, Araújo criticizes the arguments used by Sergio Amadeu in his defense of online anonymity:

“o anonimato que se permite, e até exige, em regimes de exceção, como os regimes autoritários da China, Cuba, mas também de subjugação como dos próprios países árabes, como o Iraque em face dos Estados Unidos, não se pode confundir com um anonimato interno, que se pode voltar contra os demais cidadãos. Até porque não se cogita que atue anonimamente em um regime democrático sem um propósito escuso.”

“”the anonymity that is permitted, and even needed, in [regimes where people lack basic freedoms] such as authoritarian regimes like China, Cuba, as well as in the [regimes that are subdued by other countries] of the Arab world, like Iraq in the face of the US, shouldn't be mistaken for the internal anonymity that can turn against other citizens. Even more so because acting anonymously in a democratic regime is unthinkable unless you want to do something wrong.”

In a comment on Araújo's post, Raquel Recuero [Pt] discusses the issue of anonymity and the possible uses of all information that will be made available to the government, and to whoever else takes hold of it, if the Cybercrimes Bill is approved, forcing Internet Service Providers and LAN-houses to keep a log of user activities:

“A lei prevê a obrigação dos provedores de registrar dados de navegação de todos os usuários. TODOS. Isso é, para mim, uma invasão de privacidade por presunção de que, ao navegar, estarei cometendo um crime. Dados esses que poderiam ser usados para outras coisas – penso, por exemplo, no valor publicitário de conhecer os hábitos de navegação das pessoas (eu detesto spam); nas investigações privadas de adultério (detetives); etc. etc.”

“The Bill forces the [Internet Service] providers to log the navigation data of all users. ALL OF THEM. This is, in my point of view, privacy disclosure under the presumption that by surfing the web I will be committing crimes. All this data could be used for other things — I think, e.g., about the marketing value of knowing everyone's internet surfing habits (I hate spam). I think about [illegal] use of this information for private [marital] cheating investigations, etc.”

Araújo finishes his post criticizing Eduardo Azeredo for not showing up for the debate, sending his right arm man José Portugal instead:

“achei desrespeitosa a ausência do Senador Azeredo. Não há justificativa para que um representante do povo deixe de comparecer para prestar a este os esclarecimentos sobre a sua atividade. Dificilmente o senador encontrará uma reunião com tantos interessados na sua atividade parlamentar quanto no CParty, e encará-los e ouvi-los, mais do que um ato de cortesia, seria a sua obrigação.”

“in my opinion, Senator Azeredo's absence was very disrespectful. There are no good reasons for a people's representative to refrain from showing up to give explanations about his activities. And Senator Azeredo will hardly find another meeting with so many people deeply interested in his parlamentary activities than at Campus Party, to face and hear them should be his duty more than an act of courtesy.”


A participant holds his notebook with the slogan “Did you chicken out, Azeredo?”, after the confirmation that Eduardo Azeredo wouldn't attend the debate.

At the end of the debate, on being informed that there would be no questions to José Portugal and Fernando Botelho, the audience turned their backs on the speakers and left in protest while Portugal was still delivering his final speech.

All pictures in this post, except for the first, were taken by Daniel Duende, published by Daniel Padua and are available here under a Creative Commons licence.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »

Guidelines

  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.