The following letter was sent to Brazil’s Senators on June 15, 2020.
Subject: Call to withdraw the Bill 2630/2020 and adopt a consultative process to address the issue of disinformation
Dear Sir, Madam Senator
We respectfully write to you ahead of the ongoing discussion regarding the Bill 2630/2020 Law on Freedom, Responsibility and Transparency in the Internet (“Fake News Law”). As a member of a global community working on the defence and promotion of the exercise of human rights online, we are concerned about the absence of a multi stakeholder process on disinformation policy making and the potential negative impacts of the Bill on the rights to freedom of expression, privacy and public participation.
From an internet governance standpoint, Brazil has been an international reference and example, especially for its multistakeholder approach and participatory legislative processes that created the Brazilian Internet Framework [Marco Civil da Internet] and the General Data Protection Law [Lei Geral de Dados Pessoais]. Therefore, we are concerned that such approaches seem to be overlooked upon the accelerated legislative process intended to address disinformation in Brazil. Although we recognise that disinformation is a significant challenge, particularly in the context of a pandemic, it is crucial that attempts to address the problem must not be at the expense of freedom of expression and other human rights. Thus, discussing and voting on such important issue in circumstances in which public debate is affected by social distancing may put human rights protection and Internet governance exemplary practices at risk.
For example, a number of provisions and sanctions on the latest available version of the Bill are contrary to international human rights law principles and standards, creating inter alia identification and restriction schemes, along with disproportionate sanctions to both users and internet intermediaries that undermine the protection to privacy and freedom of expression online. Therefore, a participatory process on disinformation policy making can ensure that legislative approaches to the problem do not unnecessarily restrict the rights to freedom of expression and privacy online, and include appropriate measures to achieve its intended purpose.
In addition, it is important to highlight the existing international and regional recommendations on how States should address disinformation, particularly those issued by mandate holders from the United Nations and the Inter-American Human Rights System who emphasise that the disinformation should not be addressed through specific laws that criminalises or limits expressions, on the contrary, States should adopt a comprehensive approach in which transparency and promotion of media freedom are at the center to seek for solutions. Furthermore, a series of international initiatives are progressing towards a non-legislative approach to the phenomenon. Thus, public policies related to education and digital literacy, for instance, could be more effective measures.
In view of the foregoing, we call on the members of the Senate to protect freedom of expression and privacy online by adopting the following measures:
- Withdraw the current Bill 2630/2020 Law on Freedom, Responsibility and Transparency in the Internet and conduct a consultative and participatory process that follows the multi stakeholder models applied in the past for internet related issues in Brazil.
- Address the issue of disinformation in strict compliance with Brazil’s international and regional human rights obligations on the right to privacy and freedom of expression.
- Take into consideration international human rights recommendations on addressing disinformation, especially the adoption of stakeholders cooperation processes – including intermediaries, media outlets, civil society and academia – in order to develop participatory and transparent initiatives for creating a better understanding of the impact of disinformation and propaganda on democracy, freedom of expression, journalism and civic space, as well as appropriate responses to these phenomena.