Internet freedom looking up in several countries
Though it sounds deceptively positive, "internet freedom" is something of a loaded term in today's culture. More often than not, it is used to describe a fundamental lack of freedom in a country's web culture and can even mean censorship and the secret collection of personal data. Even in this constantly stormy corner of the news circuit, there is occasionally some good news – both Brazil and Syria have passed recent legislation that will enable their citizens to surf the Internet freely.
Big win for Brazil
In the midst of World Cup fever, the Brazilian government has come under fire for a lot of things – FIFA has been criticized for removing hundreds of families from their homes to make way for large stadiums that will only be used a number of times, and massive protests and demonstrations from civilians has made for an intense political climate in the midst of the games. However, there are areas in which the country is doing extremely well – their recently passed internet freedom bill reflects a level of progressive thought by their legislative systems. RT published a recent piece detailing the newfound freedoms the populace will be subject to.
"The bill promotes freedom of information," the article described, "making service providers not liable for content published by their users, but instead forcing the companies to obey court orders to remove any offensive material."
The impending legislation was hinted at shortly before the law was put into place in early June when the Brazilian government asked Facebook and Twitter to cease gathering data on their users. Then, the NETmundial: Global Multistakeholder Meeting on the Future of Internet Governance took place in Sao Paolo on April 23rd that announced the specifics of the freedoms that can be enjoyed.
"The principle of neutrality, calling on providers to grant equal access to service without charging higher rates for greater bandwidth use is also promoted," the RT piece continued. "The legislation also limits the gathering and use of metadata on Internet users in Brazil."
Some speculated that this occurred as a reaction to the Snowden and American NSA scandal of last spring, as it was revealed that the National Security Agency had been spying on the Brazilian government. No matter the motivation, Internet users in the country will enjoy a web experience that is regulated instead of defined by ISPs as long as the bill stands in place.
Syria shows improvement in Internet policies
Syria has proven to be a hotbed of conflict in the past year, and their history with Internet censorship is no different – . InSerbia Independent News reported on the development in service, which followed Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Dunja Mijatovic's review of the Serbian internet freedom policies and proposed revisions.
"Mijatovic recalled that she issued a public statement on December 13 expressing her concern about the blocking of access to online media content, as investigative news stories were deleted from some media websites after these were hacked," the article stated.
Of course, the public cannot call this a win until it is actively enabled by the government, but the concern expressed by a representative demonstrates marked progress from some of the tricky government schemes the country has put in place in past years. For instance, the government offered free Wi-Fi to the public earlier this year, only for citizens to later discover that this was being done to keep an eye on activity and remove any possible security a user's information could possibly have had.
A definite win for Brazil and a tentative, pending one for Serbia in the internet freedom arena – it's baby steps in the right direction.