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Brazil: “President Lula is a nerd”

Peter Sunde and Lula at the the International Free Software Forum (FISL). Photo by Mariel Zasso.

Peter Sunde and Lula at the the International Free Software Forum (FISL). Photo by Mariel Zasso.

A photo of Brazilian president Lula da Silva and Pirate Bay’s spokesman Peter Sunde has been doing the rounds on the blogosphere, together with a video in which for the first time the president publicly criticized the Digital Crimes Bill. Initially proposed in 2005 by Brazilian senator Eduardo Azeredo and now under consideration in the Senate, the legislation deals not only with copyright issues, but would also punish for up to three years behind bars anything considered “a dangerous online activity” – from unknowingly spreading a virus to sharing illicit files online.

In a symbolic display of support for Free Open Source Software, Lula brought relief and hope to Brazilian cyber-activists attending the International Free Software Forum (FISL) saying: “the Internet must remain free”, “in our government, it is forbidden to forbid”, “I consider this bill a type of censorship” and “freedom is the source of creativity”. Open Source Initiative provides the English translation of the president's address at the International Free Software Forum (FISL). Self-confessed geek Júlio Câmara [pt] calls the president's visit political marketing and concludes that Lula said what everyone wanted to hear:

A início do controle da segurança do presidente, próximo ao meio dia, decretou o final do terceiro dia de fórum para os participantes. A área onde estavam a maioria dos estandes teve o acesso restrito a poucas pessoas, o resto do pessoal teve de optar por ficar embolado na multidão na área livre ou sair pela cidade.

Embora tenha causado tantos tanstornos, Lula conseguiu cativar vários participantes do FISL, alguns até divulgaram materiais com a frase “O Lula é nerd”.

Para conquistar os eleitores geeks, Lula bateu na cara da Microsoft defendendo o uso de Software Livre e detonou o projeto de Lei do senador Azeredo, classificando o projeto como censura na internet

Security for the arrival of the president, near noon, marked the end of the third day of the forum for the participants. The area where most of the stalls were placed was restricted to a few people, the rest had to choose between remaining in the overcrowded free area or leaving for the city.

Although Lula caused much trouble, he managed to please several FISL participants, some of them even handed out banners with the phrase “Lula is a nerd.”

To win the geeks’ sympathy, Lula gave Microsoft a slap in the face advocating the use of free software and criticized Senator Azeredo's Bill, describing the project as censorship on the Internet

Despite the chaos that the security apparatus surrounding the president's visit brought to the event, Filipe Saraiva [pt] says his presence was positive, but he wants to see real action to prevent the law from being passed:

Agora, vamos esperar que o presidente não fique apenas no discurso. Muitos pediram que ele vetasse a lei, caso aprovada; porém, isso gera um fato complicado de se lidar.

Ainda existe a possibilidade que os partidos políticos possam fazer um movimento para barrar a aprovação da lei ainda nos plenários. Enquanto isso, os movimentos continuam fazendo pressão.

Não esqueça de assinar a petição contra o Projeto Azeredo. Já são quase 150.000 assinaturas.

Now, we expect more than words from the president. Many asked him to veto the bill, if it is approved, but this creates a complicated issue to handle.

There is still the possibility that political parties make a move to prevent the bill being passed in the congress. Meanwhile, organizations carry on applying pressure.

Do not forget to sign the petition against Azeredo's Bill. Almost 150,000 have already done so.

"Lula is nerd" – This photo illustrated a newsletter circulated by the organizers of FISL

"Lula is nerd" – This photo illustrated cards distributed at the FISL

The main goal of President Lula's participation in this special 10th anniversary of the International Free Software Forum, attended for the first time by a head of state, was to promote the coming launch of its own social media strategy and the Blog do Planalto. Planalto Palace is the house of the Federal Executive Power, but the blog has also been dubbed Blog do Lula on the blogosphere, despite the fact that a group of bloggers and not the president himself will provide content. The blog will run on WordPress using open source software and aims at a share of the population that have the Internet as their main source of information.

To test the waters, the government has set up a consultation form, an initiative that has been welcomed by the blogosphere. The deadline for participation is July 7th, and at the end, there will be a few choices of layout with bloggers and netcitizens again invited to voice their opinions, this time casting a vote for the template of their choice. Afinsophia [pt] helps to get the word out:

E como mais uma evidência de um outro entendimento do que é comunicação social que carrega este governo, não compactuando com as forças reacionárias tradicionais, a chamada mídia sequelada, convida os internautas a participar da confecção do blogue. Desde o conteúdo até os softwares de código aberto que irão compor o portal, tudo será decidido em um fórum virtual, com participação livre. É o entendimento do público transbordando nas ondas virtuais da rede, a partir do entendimento democrático da comunicação social do governo federal.

As further evidence of this government's different understanding of what social media is, free of the traditional reactionary forces known as big media, they have invited Internet users to participate in the making of the blog. From content to the open source software on which the website will run, everything will be decided in an online forum, open for everyone's participation. It is the government's understanding of the public overflowing into the virtual waves of the web through its own democratic understanding of social media.

If there have been attempts to ban blogs from the debate in past elections in the country, the arrival of Blog do Planalto will mark a change in the trend and mentality. J. Neto [pt] also points out that, however, as announced in the pre-launch, the blog will not be open to comments to begin with, which he considers a big mistake:

Com a intenção de ter uma aproximação maior com o público jovem das redes sociais e, visando as eleições do próximo ano (2010), o blog do presidente Lula deverá estar pronto até o final deste mês. E, semelhante a estratégia já adotada por Barack Obama nas eleições americanas, Lula também terá um canal no YouTube e no Twitter para interagir. (…) Agora, uma pergunta curiosa: Qual a vantagem de ter um blog se ele não aceita comentários (feedbacks)?

With the intention of getting much closer to the young audience user of social media and, with an eye on the elections next year (2010), President Lula's blog should be ready by the end of month. And, similar to the strategy adopted by Barack Obama in the U.S. elections, Lula will also have an interactive channel on YouTube and Twitter. (…) Now, a curious question: What is the advantage of having a blog that is not open for comments (feedback)?
"Hey, mate, will you add me to your blogroll?" A cartoon by Infomaniaco.com.br

"Hey, mate, will you add me to your blogroll?" A cartoon by Infomaniaco.com.br

The International Free Software Forum (FISL) is an annual event sponsored by Brazilian NGO, the Free Software Association, that takes place every year in Porto Alegre, this year attracting around 8,000 people from 24th through 27th June [pt]. A collection of news, twitter reactions and blog posts about the event, mostly in Portuguese, can be read here. As previously reported by Global Voices, the protest has now left the blogosphere and entered the streets and a series of demonstrations against The Digital Crimes Bill [pt], also known as Azeredo's Bill, have taken place in past weeks in several Brazilian cities, the most recent during the first week of July in Rio de Janeiro and Vitoria.

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