Brazil: Flash mob protest against Digital Crimes Bill

Brazilian bloggers and netizens took to the streets of São Paulo to protest against the Digital Crimes Bill, which typifies the cyber-crimes punishable by law and stipulates penalties accordingly. They claim the law has so many flaws that, instead of punishing real criminals, it might end up deeming as crime trivial conduct when surfing the Internet. Proposed by senator Eduardo Azeredo, the bill has passed through the Senate, has proceeded to the House of Representatives and has been labeled as urgent, which means that voting might happen at any time.

Over 50 bloggers, students and netizens participated in the flash mob last Friday at Avenida Paulista, one of the city's most important avenues and financial centers. The protest was organized through blogs and mostly twitter. Lúcia Freitas reports:

A postos, mostramos nossos cartazes. alguém de dentro do ônibus acena. Pessoas param nas calçadas de ambos os lados. Motos e carros buzinam. Ao comando, viramos para o outro lado (ímpar) da avenida. Os fotógrafos fazem farra. A gente diz em alto e bom som: Não!

Put in place, we showed our posters. Someone waves at us from inside a bus. People stop on both sides of sidewalks. Motorcycles and cars honk their horns. At the command, we turn to the other side of the avenue. Photographers enjoy it. We say in loud and clear voices: No!

In fact, due to bad weather and terrible traffic, many people only managed to get there late. Political Scientist Sérgio Amadeu [pt] says that these late comers demanded to be part of the protest, so a quick decision was made for another performance, this time attended by over 100 people:

Bom, como uma manifestação auto-organizada ela resolveu se auto-constituir de novo. A flashmob virou uma refreshmob.

Well, as an auto-organized protest, it decided to reproduce itself again. The flashmob became a refreshmob.

Photo by Paulo Fehlauer who also has a video showing the protest at Avenida Paulista

On the day before, a public hearing was held in Brasília and some bloggers took the time to attend the debate (see a video and twitter reactions). They had their mouths closed with sellotape to protest against the over-surveillance on the Internet that the bill may bring if approved. Daniel Padua [pt] was there and said it had a positive outcome as the case against was very well laid by both specialists and members of parliament:

A força dos argumentos foi uma surpresa pros defensores do projeto, que acabaram soando ridículos e despreparados – como no caso do delegado da PF (alguma coisa Sobral) – que apresentou uma história na qual a PF tinha os IPs de suspeitos de pedofilia, mas só conseguiu prender 1/5 deles pela falta de um processo jurídico adequado, e foi questionado pelo deputado Paulo Teixeira: “bom, a PF tinha os IPs, não? então se vocês já conseguem os IPs das pessoas, porque precisam desse projeto de lei?”

The strength of the arguments (against the bill) was a surprise for the project supporters, who ended up sounding silly and unprepared – as in the case of a police officer who had a history in which the police had the IPs of suspected pedophiles, but only managed to arrest 1/5 of them because of the lack of an appropriate legal process. He was questioned by parliament member Paulo Teixeira: “Well, the PF had the IPs, right? So if you already get people's IPs, what do you need this bill for?”.

Marcelo Träsel [pt] says that a battle was won but the fight goes ahead. He unveils whose interests are in fact behind the bill:

Porque no fim das contas é disso que se trata: os bancos estão tentando impor uma legislação estúpida para deixarem de assumir a responsabilidade por tornar seus sistemas de transação eletrônica mais seguros. Afinal, garantir a segurança de dados custa dinheiro. E dinheiro é o que os bancos deram, coincidentemente, para a campanha a senador de Azeredo e muitos outros deputados. Estão pouco ligando se vão emperrar o processo cultural ou o avanço da inclusão digital no Brasil.

At the end of the day this is it: banks are trying to impose this stupid law so that they don't have the responsibility for making their electronic transaction systems more secure. After all, ensuring data security costs money. And money is what the banks have, coincidentally, donated to Senator Azeredo's and many other [politicians] campaigns. They don't care if it will paralyse the cultural process or the enhancement of digital inclusion in Brazil.

According to João Carlos Caribé [pt], this public hearing, virtually the first open debate about the bill, was made possible through liaising by the organizers of an online petition [pt] in defense of freedom and progress of knowledge on the Brazilian Internet. It has been signed by over 121,400 citizens, which is not much, considering Brazil's nearly 200 million population. Gabriel Sadoco [pt] writes about it at this Saturday's blog carnival [pt] about politics and says that people should not be so apathetic regarding this and others issues:

E a esses brasileiros que não se incomodam com o que acontece no seu país. Que preferem assistir as tragédias do jornal antes da novela das oito e só servem pra fazer peso no mundo, acordem para a realidade e comecem a protestar, porque você ainda tem direito a isso. Não ao vigilantismo.
Privacidade e liberdade pra todo mundo!

For those Brazilians who do not care whatever happens in their country, who prefer to read the tragedies in the newspaper before the eight o'clock soap opera and are only good to put weight on the world, wake up to reality and begin to protest, because you still have the right to do so. Say no to surveillance. Privacy and freedom for everyone!

Mário Amaya [pt] has designed the poster that many bloggers have been carrying with them, which can be downloaded and printed out. He is also the designer of many of the online banners that have spread on the blogosphere.

Freedom on the Internet


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