The Gatekeepers of Cyberspace: Surveillance, Control, and Internet Regulation in Brazil

The Gatekeepers of Cyberspace: Surveillance, Control, and Internet Regulation in Brazil

Elisianne Campos de Melo Soares (Media and Journalism Investigation Centre, Portugal & Brazilian Association of Cyberculture Researchers, Brazil)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6324-4.ch023
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Abstract

Cyberspace, like the territories grounded in the physical world, is an environment subject to border control and surveillance for various purposes: governmental, economic, security, among others. As in the physical sphere, governance can serve to enforce rules to avoid abuses and to allow users and institutions to build effective relationships, transparent and harmonious. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the Civil Rights Framework for the Internet in Brazil (“Marco Civil da Internet”), a project created in 2009 that aims to establish rights and obligations for the operation of the network in this Latin American nation. Before that, however, it is critical to address the issue of control and surveillance on the Internet, revealing their motivations, goals, and work tools.
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Introduction

The rapid development of digital technologies has made life in the modern age easier than ever before while allowing people to overcome the geographic barriers, hitherto impossible to surmount. The types of communication made possible by the Internet have brought individuals from the most distant corners of the planet in contact with one another and greatly reduced the costs of goods and services worldwide, as well as facilitating interactivity and accelerating economic, political and social progress.

These accessible, cheaper, and highly efficient methods of communication, however, do not only herald improvements. With the popularization of digital communication, cybercrimes and surveillance activities have also found new ways of acting more effectively. Whether undertaken by governments or applied by private organizations, surveillance is being used to develop a more subtle form of control. In the context of the so-called “free culture”, which has emerged with the inception of the Internet and the growing use of Information Technology (IT) in society, laws regulating intellectual property, for example, are confronted with the need to adapt to changes imposed by the new methods of production, broadcasting and circulation of creative information, brought about by these new technologies.

Implementation of cyberspace regulations which is essential for the proper functioning of the web and exercising of the freedom of expression in this new sphere of communication are the fundamental questions related to control and surveillance. Regulation plays a crucial role in enforcing and monitoring limits on the activities developed by companies providing Internet access, preventing indiscriminate use of network users’ data for commercial purposes, as well as combatting practices such as traffic shaping. However, the difference between safe navigation and controlled and monitored Internet traffic is very delicate. It is necessary to create regulatory models that respect privacy and allow free navigation for the user, without barriers to full use of digital means with all the benefits they may provide.

The objective of our study is to identify the ways that led us to the digital public sphere that we have today, with its corresponding benefits and dangers. We will discuss the existing regulation model in Brazil, our research case. First, however, is necessary to have in mind the definitions of cyber culture and cyberspace, among other concepts that were born with new technologies (like gatekeeping, net neutrality, etc.). It is necessary to consider the profound metamorphosis that the emergence and the development of the network implied in the roles of the various social actors, and to identify possible paths of these already indispensable tools for interaction, creation and distribution of information.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Human Rights: Human rights are rights and freedoms to which all are entitled, no matter who they are or where they live.

Privacy: It is the right to keep personal information private and to a private life itself.

Cyberculture: Set of practices, attitudes, modes of thought and values that develop in cyberspace.

Internet Regulation: Creation and establishment of principles that promote and enable the various actors involved to use the Internet properly.

Surveillance: It is the practice of monitoring, through human resources and/or technical movements, actions and habits of individuals or groups of individuals.

Cyberspace: Place where digital life unfolds in its various aspects, through interaction between users and their relationship with the space where they act.

Gatekeeping: Term, linked to the field of communication, describing the individual, whether they be publisher or person who selects and categorizes information content, and controls the means for its dissemination.

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