Guidelines For Freedom of Expression on the Internet in Latin America

by Digital Rights LAC on November 29, 2014


Recent discussions of the constitutional law analyze the existence of a new constitutional thought that emerged in Latin American countries. This new constitutionalism in Latin America arises from social movements that seek more democratic spaces to resize social participation in public management.


By Alexandre Henrique Saldanha

Recent experiences in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia have led to such discussions, since their constitutions include forecasting tools for popular consultation and democratization of areas previously reserved to the government.

While it may be possible to argue about the emergence of a new model of constitutional movement based on recent experiences and from a few countries on the continent, it is noteworthy that such discussions are quite valid since they analyze the legitimacy of constitutional norms, using the theory of democracy as a parameter. Therefore, it is necessary to add the issue of freedoms on the internet and the democratization brought about by cyberculture to this discussion. Regardless of a new constitutional thought in the Latin American continent, freedom of expression on the Internet in this region has been the object of analysis, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which, through its special rapporteur for freedom of expression, creates reports containing guidelines for American countries to adopt as informative principles for Internet regulation and its uses.

Through these guidelines, the committee suggests that each country adopts such principles as a benchmark in its legal treatment to the digital environment. Thus contributing to the greater expectations about democratic density typical of the
discussions of the mentioned new constitutional thought in the region. Network access, Plurality, Non-Discrimination and Neutrality are some principles suggested by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights for freedom of expression on the internet, and each alone represents a proposal to guarantee democracy and social participation.

Access as an information principle represents a kind of obligation of each state to promote public policies to ensure digital inclusion, so that every citizen has access to information in cyberspace. Plurality in turn argues that the more voices that can interact by means of expression through the internet, the more democratic will be the discussions and information accessible through the world wide web. Nondiscrimination, on the other hand, aspires to be a guarantee that there will be no different treatment to citizens who access the internet, since the most vulnerable will have the same access and interaction opportunity than the less vulnerable. Finally, neutrality at first ensures that there won’t be censorship regarding the content to be transmitted and informed in cyberspace, as an access provider may not have such type of control.

One realizes how strong each of these informative principles of the inter-American committee are in terms democratic aspirations, with the purpose of enhancing dialogue and participation of various sectors of society, which coincides with the intentions of those who reflect on the mentioned new Latin American constitutionalism. Therefore, this article is only as a provocation, in the sense that any current issue involving constitutional rights and human rights should include the internet and the rules that regulate it in the discussion. Since there will not be enough democracy if fundamental freedoms are not guaranteed in the digital environment.

*PhD in Law from UFPE. Coordinator of the Law Course of Faculdades Integradas Barros Melo/Olinda. Professor and lawyer.