Brazil-Germany Meeting on Internet Governance in São Paulo

Project Context

The Snowden revelations in 2013 have fuelled a geopolitical and ideological contest over the future of internet governance, and in a number of ways, these revelations have propelled Brazil and Germany into a leadership role as regards the balance between freedom and security in the digital age.

Brazil and Germany share important similarities. Both are democratic countries. Their leaders, Dilma Rousseff and Angela Merkel, were visibly stung by the revelations of having been spied upon and feel domestic political pressure to fight back. Many elites in both countries share the conviction that safeguarding privacy and freedom means curtailing blanket surveillance efforts. Businesses in both countries worry about the link between surveillance and industrial espionage. For Facebook and Google, both are important markets. Brazil and Germany are also favorite refuges for activist journalists.

Since the summer of 2013, the Brazilian and German governments have pursued a number of initiatives at the national, regional and global levels. Domestically, the Germans have entertained steps to regain “technological sovereignty” by reducing dependence on US and Chinese service providers. The Brazilians have passed a landmark law called Marco Civil da Internet, providing a civil rights framework for internet users in Brazil.

At the global level, we have seen an increasing level of cooperation between the two countries. Brazil has supported Germany’s push for a UN General Assembly resolution on digital freedom and privacy. Many in Germany expressed sympathy for Rousseff’s speech at the general assembly in September 2013 and its ambitious call for a multilateral framework. The speech resulted in Brazil hosting a major global meeting, called NETmundial, about internet governance on 22-23 April 2014 in São Paulo. Leading up to this meeting, there was and still is a strong need for an open exchange between the different stakeholders on internet governance in Brazil and Germany.

Project Objectives

The day before NETMundial, on 22 April 2014, GPPi – together with the Rio Institute for Technology & Society and in cooperation with the Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers – co-hosted a Brazilian-German workshop on internet governance that assembled experts to discuss what Brazil and Germany can do together to foster an open, free and secure internet.

The off-the-record morning workshop focused on debates around internet policy in Brazil and Germany. Participants identified norms of internet governance that both countries share, in particular the right to privacy, and sought to pinpoint areas of collaboration going forward.

GPPi’s Thorsten Benner, Tim Maurer, Oliver Read and Oliver Stuenkel participated in the morning event. In his contribution, Thorsten Benner stressed that Germany and Brazil have a huge contribution to make leading by example and building coalitions around issues of privacy, surveillance and norm development in cybersecurity. Drawing on his recent research on “swing states,” Tim Maurer identified the governments with which Germany and Brazil could try to enter a coalition. Oliver Stuenkel stressed the need for Brazil to follow through on its commitment to norm entrepreneurship in the area of internet governance. Oliver Read moderated a panel on Germany’s internet policies.

Following the morning workshop was an afternoon session that was open to the general public and not specific to Brazil and Germany. Discussions reflected on the two key tasks of NETMundial: developing a set of guiding principles in a highly diverse internet governance system and developing a roadmap for the “globalization” of core internet governance modalities.

Among many others, participants during the day included: Dirk Brengelmann, Germany’s commissioner for international cyber policy; Detlev Dauke, director general of Germany’s federal ministry of economic affairs and energy; Carlos Afonso, board member of the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee; Alessandro Molon, member of Brazil’s national congress and rapporteur on Marco Civil; Jeanette Hofmann, director at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society; Markus Beckedahl, blogger at; Frank La Rue, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Monroe Price, director of the Center for Global Communication Studies at the Annenberg School; Erika Mann, director of public policy in Brussels at Facebook; Vint Cerf, chief internet evangelist for Google; and Urs Gasser, director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Ronaldo Lemos and Carlos Affonso de Souza, directors of the Rio Institute for Technology and Society, were GPPi’s key Brazilian partners for the event. Both were closely involved in the process that led to Marco Civil, which was passed into law the day after the workshop.

The event was sponsored by Konrad Adenauer Foundation, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee and the International Development Research Centre.

Learn more about GPPi's work on Global Internet Politics.

For more information, please contact Thorsten Benner.