What were the main digital policy regional updates in Latin America? This space brings you the main updates month by month, summarised by the observatory's curators.
Follow the GIP's April briefing on Internet governance, which will include updates from the Latin American region during April. Register to attend.
Curated by Cláudio Lucena
Marielle Franco, misinformation and hate speech in Brazil
The murder of Rio de Janeiro city councillor, Marielle Franco, and her driver Anderson Gomes, has had an impact on the scenario of digital rights in Brazil. Marielle had participated in November 2017, in the national preparatory meeting for the IGF on a panel discussing the role of technology in fighting gender, race, and social inequality. After the murder, a lawsuit was filed in Brazil demanding the removal of 38 videos, that according to Marielle’s family, contained hate messages and offended her dignity and memory by suggesting she was connected to drug dealers and organised crime. A judge in Rio ruled that 16 out of the 38 videos actually contain abuse of the exercise of freedom of speech, and ordered YouTube to take them down, on March 22. YouTube was given 72 hours to comply, after which, a daily fine of R$ 1000 would apply. A pool of civil rights lawyers also started campaigning to identify and crowdsource the filing of lawsuits all over the country concerning the same alleged attacks by individual posts on social networks. We are yet to hear about these lawsuits.
Preparation for LACIGF
15 March 2018 | Capacity development
A period of consultations is now open for the Latin American and the Caribbean Internet Governance Forum (LACIGF), the regional preparatory meeting for the IGF. The organisation expects the community to help define the agenda of the meeting and the topics for discussion. From 15 March to 6 April 2018, anyone can contribute with ideas to be considered by the programme committee, through a survey. The 11th LACIGF will take place between 30 July and 3 August 2018. The venue is yet to be decided.
Platform regulation in Nicaragua
Following similar developments in Brazil and Paraguay last year, and Honduras, which was covered in our February update, the government of Nicaragua is now pushing forward legislative initiatives regarding the use of social networks in the country. Vice President Rosario Murillo, President Daniel Ortega’s wife, claimed that the use of the social networks is negatively influencing and affecting the capacity of coexistence of families in the country. The proposal includes reforming the Family, Children and Criminal code, among other laws, to prevent violence and ‘Fake News’. Journalists and civil society organisations have criticised the measures, which they consider an attempt to impose censorship. The parliament has already announced that it will open a debate to analyse the proposed reforms.
Curated by Cláudio Lucena
Hearing on human rights in the digital environment
The Inter-american Commision on Human Rights (CIDH) will host on 28 February a thematic hearing on ‘Digital intelligence, cybersecurity and freedom of expression’ in Bogotá, Colombia. The hearing was granted upon a request from Asociación por los Derechos Civiles (ADC) and it will be an opportunity to bring issues of human rights in the digital environment to a relevant intergovernmental space in the region. Other organisations such as Derechos Digitales, Electronic Frontier Foundation, R3D (México) and Fundación Karisma (Colombia) will also follow the event. The agenda will include discussions on themes such as cybercrime, data retention, digital evidence, freedom of information and digital literacy.
Venezuela launches cryptocurrency
20 February 2018 | E-money and virtual currencies
The government of Venezuela has launched what it claims to be the first state-backed cryptocurrency, called Petro. The period of pre-sale for Petros was officially open on 20 February 2018. The government plans to offer 100 million units of the cryptocurrency, which is backed by the countries’ oil assets and use the oil barrel as a reference for its price. During the pre-sale period, 38,4 million units will be offered, and another 44 million will be available as of next month, through an initial coin offer (ICO). The technical community raises concerns about the feasibility of the project, pointing out that the government has not properly structured it. Initially, an official white paper indicated that the tokens for the pre-sale would be available through the Ethereum blockchain platform. However, a day after this paper was released, and when the pre-sale period was already open, the white paper had changed that information to indicate that the NEM blockchain platform would be used. The national opposition criticises the initiative, arguing that the strategy is merely a way to offer bonds and increase the public debt while circumventing the necessary authorisation from the Parliament to do so. The US Treasury Department has also issued a warning that the initiative appeared to be a way to extend credit to the government of Venezuela, and breach and get around the sanctions imposed on the country, which could represent legal risks for the people that eventually decide to invest on it.
Technology to fight corruption
15 February 2018 | Development - other
The World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) launched a digital platform called ‘Technology for Integrity’ on 15 March during its São Paulo meeting. The goal is to tap into new technologies as tools to fight corruption in the countries of the region. Partners include 96 global innovators and organisations such as Transparency International and the Inter-American Development Bank. The initiative intends to rebuild confidence and integrity in Latin America from a global perspective. The platform consists of a database of tools, best practices, and solutions to tackle corruption. The content will be produced both by the public and private sectors. The initiative also includes a laboratory of synergies through which representatives of different stakeholders will be able to meet, identify their specific needs, and contact innovators to offer tailored solutions to fight corruption.
Cybersecurity act in Honduras tackled content regulation
On 8 February, a special commission of the Parliament in Honduras approved the country’s Cybersecurity Act. The text also contains mechanisms to fight hate speech spread through social networks. Article 6 of the bill states that content deemed offensive should be removed or blocked within 24 hours (and in no case later than seven days), upon the request of the person deemed offended, without mentioning the need for a judicial order. The initiative is similar to the ones which were discussed in October 2017 in Brazil and in Paraguay, with the difference that the debate in those countries only concerned dealing with objectionable content in the period of elections, whereas the case in Honduras targets all digital communications. Sectors of the press and freedom of expression activists and organisations have voiced opposition to the absence of judicial review for digital content blocking or removal. According to them, if enacted, the framework has the potential to curb freedom of speech, undermine the flow of information, and promote censorship.
National digital identification documents to be introduced in Brazil
The Brazilian Government announced that several documents used by citizens in the country will be consolidated in one single national digital identification document (DNI). The DNI is expected to be available for everyone in the country from July 2018. Until then, a pilot experience will make the document available to civil servants of courts and ministries. Citizens will download an iOs or Android app, pre-register with their data, and then find a government institution where they will have to validate their data through the biometric database which is already available in the national electoral justice system. From then, it will be available on a smartphone. Security reasons will make DNI available in only one smartphone at a time, and access will be protected by a password. Other security measures such as a watermark close to the picture and dynamic QR codes are being discussed during the pilot experience. It remains to be seen how the government plans to ensure the protection of the personal data of citizens, since the country does not yet have an objective system of protection of personal data in place.
Curated by Cláudio Lucena
New bill on elections introduced in Paraguay's Congress
In Paraguay, a bill to reform the law that regulates elections was introduced in Congress on 10 October 2017. According to the proposal, any anonymous comment on social networks deemed offensive or defamatory by candidates shall be suspended immediately and removed until the author can be identified by name and social security number, after which the content might be reinstated. Candidates themselves shall decide what is offensive or defamatory, regardless of a judicial opinion. The bill has also received criticism and it remains under analysis.
Brazilian government vetoes electoral bill reform
An attempt from the Congress in Brazil to reform the law that regulates elections was rejected by the government on 6 October 2017. The proposal would force digital platforms to suspend hate speech, false information, and content that candidates deemed offensive, regardless of the existence of a judicial order. Reactions argued that the proposal amounted to censorship and that it violated the Marco Civil da Internet (Internet bill of rights), according to which a judicial order has to be obtained to remove or suspend content in the country. The reform was enacted, but the proposal was vetoed.