The Brazilian blogosphere has not quite yet recovered from its last fright and there is already another threat on the way: a blanket ban on blogs hosted on WordPress.com after a judicial court passed an order to close down a specific blog. Gabriela Zabo [pt] explains why:
O motivo é uma decisão judicial expedida em março, que determina a proibição de acesso a um determinado blog, hospedado no WordPress. O nome do blog e o motivo do bloqueio não foram revelados. O problema é que, segundo a Abranet, para que a decisão seja cumprida, seria preciso bloquear todo o domínio wordpress.com (não é possível impedir acesso a um único blog, visto que o domínio inteiro divide o mesmo IP). Blogs baseados em WordPress, mas hospedados em outros endereços, não seriam afetados pelo bloqueio.
The reason is a court order issued in March which stipulates the prohibition of access to a particular blog, hosted on WordPress. The blog's name and the reason for the ban have not been disclosed. The problem is that, according to Abranet [Brazilian Association of Internet Service Providers], in order for this decision to be carried out, they would need to block the entire wordpress.com domain (it is not possible to prevent access to a single blog, since the entire domain shares the same IP). Blogs based on WordPress, but hosted under different addresses, would not be affected by the ban.
Judge Jorge Alberto Araujo [pt] gives a little of the supposed story's background, which he has called YouTubeGate:
O caso é o seguinte: uma menina muito burra se deixa filmar/fotografar pelo namorado fazendo sexo despudoradamente, briga com o namorado (que está na posse da gravação), não raro traindo-o com outro. e este, indignado publica no YouTube as cenas picantes e íntimas.
The case is as follows: a very silly girl lets her boyfriend film/photograph her shamelessly having sex, she fights with the said boyfriend (who has kept the records), betraying him with another guy. And he, disgusted, publishes the spicy and intimate scenes on YouTube.
As the criminal content in this case is still not clear, and considering that the offensive blog, according to what some bloggers and twitters have heard, has had all previous posts deleted [we decided not to publicize the URL as it shows the name of the offended person], it is very possible that the blanket ban will not ultimately happen. However, as many bloggers have pointed out, this all sounds scarily familiar to some bloggers, who have already seen an astoundingly similar decision enforced in the very same way in Brazil.
Back in January 2006, a Brazilian court ordered YouTube to close down its service in the country until it removed all video clips of a celebrity sex video featuring model and ex-wife of soccer player Ronaldo, Daniela Cicarelli, apparently having sexual intercourse on a beach posted on the popular video-sharing site. While YouTube was banned in the country for a few days, allegedly the second largest national user of the site, thousands of YouTube users and bloggers launched an e-mail protest against Cicarelli and suggested a boycott of her television program on Brazilian MTV. Loosing money and prestige, the model denied participation in the lawsuit and the law was reverted.
Considering the previous legal decision to ban blogs from the pre-election campaign debate, some bloggers did seriously contemplate the possibility of yet another blanket ban. Knowing too well that it is better to be safe than sorry, they decided to take preemptive action. WordPresser Celso Bessa reminds readers of the above mentioned event in an open letter to Matt Mullenweg and WordPress/Automattic staff, also detailing other mishaps that the Brazilian blogosphere has gone through in the last years. He cries for help:
For this reason, I ask you guys to help defend our rights in cases like this, if the court really tries to reach you:
1. By providing the Brazilian Court with a technical report and knowledge support about the best way to handle the blocking order of this specific blog, without compromising the access to wordpress.com
2. By providing the blog owner with enought time and ways to keep his/her right to defense, to keep his data, and use the tools to migrate his blog and show the world his/her opinion.
3. By providing the blogsphere, with the information about the blog address and content. In order to allow us to judge the case by ourselves and the opportunity to a) take a side and b) show the world that we are fighting for our right to balance the power
You’ve shown, several times, that you guys respect democracy, common sense and internet collective good.
Rodrigo Ghedin [pt] also sent an e-mail to WordPress and received an answer in a matter of hours. The blogger asks why those involved in this current controversy did not do the same in the first place and hopes for a sensible outcome:
É tão difícil enviar um e-mail para lá, e simplesmente solicitar a exclusão do blog? Casos extrajudiciais muito mais simples do que o que está gerando todo esse rebuliço são tratados com seriedade e profissionalismo. Tem algum blog hospedado no WordPress.com plagiando seu conteúdo? Basta mandar um e-mail embasado (com links servindo de prova), e pedir a exclusão. Dia desses algum orelhudo copiou o layout e as notícias do WinAjuda. Notifiquei o problema ao Mark, e hoje aquele exemplo de mau uso da ferramenta não existe mais. Espero que o bom senso vença no final das contas, e que o WordPress.com não fique fora do ar no Brasil em virtude de uma decisão judicial por um segundo sequer.
Is it so difficult to send an email to them, and simply request the blog to be deleted? Much more simple out of court settlements than the one causing all this fuss are treated with seriousness and professionalism. Is there any WordPress.com blog plagiarizing your content? You only need to send a sound email (with links as proof), and ask for its exclusion. Recently someone copied the layout and news pieces from WinAjuda. I informed Mark about the problem, and now that example of misuse of the tool no longer exists. I hope that common sense wins at the end of the day, and that WordPress.com does not get blocked for even a second in Brazil as a result of a court order.
Once bitten, twice shy
Considering that 90% of the Brazilian internet providers are affiliated to the Abranet, if the blanket ban comes true, nearly everyone in the country will loose access to the one million plus blogs hosted on the WordPress platform. Twice bitten Brazilian bloggers won't let this happen easily. As soon as the news broke, a ‘No to the Ban’ blog was set up, making available badges like the ones that illustrate this article. An Orkut community has been growing at fast pace.
Gustavo de Moraes from TampaBlog! [pt] points out that WordPress pages are the 27th most accessed from Brazil and says that it will not be easy to block them, as the Brazilian blogosphere has by now learned how to fight:
Não entendo de leis, porém, de blogs eu entendo e tenho certeza de que tal ação não será tão fácil quanto imaginam os homens da lei. Eu, pelo menos, já estou fazendo minha parte para informar à todos blogueiros sobre a ordem judicial e tentar abrir os olhos da justiça, o tamanho do estrago que causarão cumprindo esta lei. Se quiserem, passem a URL e motivo para o blog ser bloqueado que nós, blogueiros, iremos cuidar do indivíduo direitinho. Boicote nós sabemos fazer muito bem. Mas mesmo assim, não estranhe se um dia desses tentarem entrar no TampaBlog! e em outros Milhares de blogs e estes, estiverem fora do ar. Esta é a justiça brasileira… liberdade para corruptos, cadeiras de couros para presos ricos e boicote a blogueiros.
I don't understand much about law, however, I do understand blogging and I'm sure that such a lawsuit won't be as easy as the law people think. I am, at least, doing my bit to inform all the bloggers of the court order and try to open the eyes of justice, about the size of the damage that fulfilling this law would cause. If they like, they can share the blog URL and the reason for the ban, and we bloggers will take care of said person. We do know how to boycott very well. But even then, don't be surprised if one day you try to access the TampaBlog! and thousands of other blogs and find them inaccessible. This is Brazilian justice… Freedom to the corrupt, leather chairs for rich inmates and boycotts to bloggers.
Other bloggers mentioned recent decisions, such as the ban on games (Counter-Strike, everquest and more recently Bully), not to mention a threat to close Orkut, the much loved (by Brazilians) social networking site. Yuri Torres [pt] is not happy at all:
Explico: Desde que foi implementado a privacidade nas fotos dos álbuns, existem denúncias sobre pornografia infantil. O Ministério público afirma que se não tiver acesso a todos os álbuns, para verificar as denúncias, tirará o Orkut do ar. E tem mais: Além do Orkut, ainda vão bloquear o WordPress! Sim, o meu blog, e os outros 1 milhão de blogs brasileiros serão bloqueados, tudo por causa de um blog. Em vez de simplesmente solicitar o bloqueio ao WordPress desse determinado blog, que nem foi divulgado qual é, vão bloquear todos! ODIO DA JUSTIÇA BRASILEIRA! Esses dinossauso que fazem as leis, que não tem nenhuma noção de tecnologia, e que fazem essas leis ridículas (vide proibir Counter Strike).
I explain: since photo albums privacy was implemented, there have been complaints about child pornography. The Public Ministry says that if they don't get access to all albums, in order to verify the complaints, they will close Orkut down. There's more: in addition to this, besides Orkut they will also block WordPress! Yes, my blog and the some 1 million Brazilian's blogs will be blocked, all because of one blog. Instead of simply asking WordPress to block this particular blog, which has not been disclosed, they will block it all! I HATE BRAZILIAN JUSTICE! These dinosaurs who make the laws, who have no concept of technology, and who pass these ridiculous laws (such as the prohibition of Counter Strike).
Cyber censorship or cyber ignorance?
In his first blog post ever, Daniel de Magalhães [pt] was unfortunate enough to carry this bad news. He asks:
Estamos entrando na era da censura cibernética? Até quando ficaremos sem leis claras sobre a internet?
Are we entering the era of cyber censorship? Up to when will we have no clear laws on the Internet?
This bottom line is also stressed by Raquel Recuero [pt], who says that, again, such a decision shows how unprepared Brazilian judges are to deal with the issue of law on the Internet.
O Brasil não tem legislação específica para isso, portanto, trabalha com analogia de outras leis. O problema é que a maioria dos juízes, nascidos em uma época pré-Internet, acabam não tendo o preparo e o conhecimento técnico para lidar com uma nova sociedade em rede. Assim, as decisões com relação a esses elementos, que acabam gerando efeitos fabulosos e desmedidos na sociedade brasileira.
Brazil has no specific legislation for this, therefore, they work using other laws as analogy. The problem is that most judges, who were born in the pre-Internet era, are not prepared and in possession of technical knowledge to deal with a new wired society. Thus, their decisions related to these issues, which ultimately end up generating fabulous and far-fetched effects on Brazilian society.
In fact, in November 2006 a rather clumsy ‘Cybercrime Bill’ was solemnly announced. Authored by Senator Eduardo Azeredo, the original text had been proceeding through the Brazilian Congress for about 7 years with no public debate, and the suggested bill was unanimously rejected by the blogosphere for, among other reasons, requiring compulsory registration for Internet users that would allow tracking either by the provider or by a governmental body, and offending people's right to privacy. Nearly two years on, the project still has a long way to go before being approved or, hopefully, be amended accordingly [pt].
Meanwhile, as disclosed this week, Brazil is not one of the four Latin American and Caribbean economies in the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2007-2008 Global Information Technology Report top 50. Latin America has fallen to the bottom of the worldwide technological development ranking, while Brazil fell six positions to number 59, compared to the previous year’s number 53.
Not the only one
Brazil is not the first country to face such a problem. In August last year, Turkey faced a similar situation and WordPress has in fact been blocked and remains inaccessible in that country.