Brazil: A Threatened Digital Generation Fights for the Open Web
If you’ve been paying attention in the social media and tech world over the last few weeks, you may have heard that there is some conflict in Brazil. Recently, a Brazilian judge shut down WhatsApp and it’s looking more and more like Brazil’s congress wants to shut down the social web next. Currently, WhatsApp is the single most used app in Brazil, with about 93 million users, or 93% of the country’s internet population. The court-ordered 48 hour blackout across Brazil was instated as a result of the app refusing to turn over data in an investigation. It came back online 12 hours into the blackout after a second judge ruled that “it does not seem reasonable that millions of users are affected” and suggested a financial penalty instead. The bigger question on people’s minds currently is –what’s next?
First we should explain that Brazil is basically the “Social Media Capital of the Universe: Brazilians are the #2 or #3 audience on every major global social platform, and on a per-user basis, Brazilians spend almost double the time on social media as Americans.” So, if you consider these facts, you can see that shutting down the number one app in the country is a huge deal. You can also see how people start to question what moves are coming next.
According to TechCrunch, currently:
If the anti-privacy legislation Brazilian Congress has on the table makes its way into law, companies like WhatsApp, Facebook and Google will have drastically increased obligations to collect, retain and share sensitive user data with the government […]If Brazil’s conservative Congress gets its way, they’re going to take down the entire social web as we know it, with bills circulating through the legislature to criminalize posting social media content and to allow the government to spy on its citizens.
The details seem like something straight out of a science fiction novel, but in actuality –some adaptation of these laws is a very real possibility. Right now, proposed law PL 215/15, or the “Big Spy”, is a surveillance law that would require Brazilians to enter their sensitive information to access all sites and apps on the internet. This information would include their tax IDs, home addresses and phone numbers. To take it a step even further, it will require social media and internet companies (like Facebook and Google) to store that information for up to three years and also to provide access to this information to police with a court order.
There are a whole host of issues that come up with these proposed laws. Some include a centralized database of internet users (meant to keep children from accessing inappropriate content), the ability for politicians to censor social media, and so much more.
So, what do you think? Is this “Big Brother” government necessary? Or do you consider these laws a supreme violation of a person’s freedom of expression and right to privacy? Should we be viewing social media and apps as a threat to be managed? When you look at a country even more “social” than the United States, is this a glimpse into what we could be fighting against in the future? What can we do now? Comment below!
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