It is often said that you can see the Great Wall of China from the space- it turns out it is a myth. But you can surely see China’s Great Firewall from world maps illuminating Facebook traffic. The gaping hole of darkness, in the land with the world’s largest internet population, shows the impact of China’s internet censorship. The Great Firewall of China (known as GFW) blocks foreign websites, including Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It also monitors internet conversations through keyword filtering.
Network shutdowns impacting an entire country are now almost non-existent, but the practice of shutting down communications in certain cities or areas of a country, or suspending certain services continues globally. This has happened over the past decade or so for a variety of reasons, sometimes due to national security concerns but also to prevent the organisation of protests or the spread of civil unrest.
This study aims to map the controversy surrounding the Marco Civil da Internet (Civil Framework for the Internet) in Brazil. Drawing on a Twitter dataset spanning from August 2012 to December 2013, this study uses a series of methods, including data mining, processing, and information visualization, to produce a historiography of collective actions related to the Marco Civil. The Twitter conversations traced in this paper began on October 27, 2009 when Brazil’s Ministry of Culture, in partnership with the National Education and Research Network (RNP), launched a national campaign to discuss the Marco Civil. With broad participation from civil society, the first draft of the bill was developed on “Digital Culture Brasil,” an open platform developed by the Ministry of Culture for public debate and conversation on federal policy issues concerning the internet. The #MarcoCivil platform on the “Digital Culture” website catalyzed a series of robust discussions online, using the Twitter profile @MarcoCivil (run by the administrators of the Digital Culture platform) and the #MarcoCivil hashtag.
The question of how Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) affect internet policy is crucial for the global evolution of the internet. Although countries agree that no nations should impose restrictions on the development of the internet in other nations, FTAs are playing an important role in shaping local internet regulations. Indeed, since the implementation of the Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights Agreement (TRIPS) in 1995, FTAs have commonly included international intellectual property obligations. Through FTAs, some countries are bilaterally agreeing to obligations related to local internet operations, in exchange for more favorable trade conditions. This situation has led many countries to alter their internet systems with transplanted foreign regulations, which are frequently inadequate to meet local needs, and in the worst cases, it poses severe threats to internet users’ rights. This paper analyses the landscape of FTAs that impact internet policy in Latin America. It shows how FTAs have shaped internet policy in a network of countries – in many cases, leading these countries to create regulations that have not undergone local public scrutiny.