Brazilian internet freedom activists are nervous. On Wednesday, a committee in the lower house of Congress, the Câmera dos Deputados, will vote on seven proposals ostensibly created to combat cybercrime. Critics argue the combined effect will be to substantially restrict open internet in the country by peeling back the right to anonymity, and providing law enforcement with draconian powers to censor online discourse and examine citizens’ personal data without judicial oversight.
The bills are ripped straight from what has become a standard international playbook: Propose legislation to combat cybercrime; invoke child pornography, hackers, organized crime, and even terrorism; then slip in measures that also make it easier to identify critical voices online (often without judicial oversight) and either mute them or throw them in jail for defamation — direct threats to free speech.
Pakistan, Nigeria, Mexico, Kuwait, Kenya, the Philippines, Peru, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar have all seen similar proposals recently. Some were met with strong resistance and got shelved, some are still pending, and others made it into law.
“Cybercrime is one of the recurring excuses for creating overbroad legislation which place controls on internet activity,” Katitza Rodriguez, international rights director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote in an email to The Intercept.