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"Governments are thirsty for control"

In Rio to debate network neutrality issues related to the Marco Civil da Internet, Leonidas Kanellos, Greek lawyer and professor sees battles between State, citizens, and operators. (

“I was born in Greece 53 years ago. I’m a communications lawyer and a professor at the University of Piraeus (Athens). I have lived in France for six years, while I was a PhD candidate. I have represented operators, providers, and media companies worldwide, and, for four years, I was a national regulator in Greece.”

Tell me something I don’t know.

Europe has the political goal to turn every national into a digital citizen by 2020. In a flat country, that’s okay. In Greece, with four thousand islands (265 uninhabited), connectivity is more complicated. However, Internet connects the unconnected, whether they are in Amazonas or in Bahia.

What do you think about the “right to be forgotten”? Behaviors and beliefs from 10 years ago should not be recorded in the network, following you for the rest of your life. This right was established by the European Court with a case brought by a Spanish national who lost his house during the crisis. On the other hand, there is the journalistic right to inform in opposition to the right to be forgotten, so I think it is important to impose limits with care.

In which cases should this right not be exercised? For example, if you have a criminal conviction, it is a fact that you shouldn't have the right to erase. In other cases, it may be dangerous to erase information if you change your political beliefs.

In your field, is it possible to have a life off the network? Life is not only about work and study. We have to enjoy it. I like to travel, I have traveled the world, from Australia’s barrier reef to Alaska. I have lived in France and learned wine tasting. In the Americas, I know Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and the US.

What about Brazil? I like it very much, this is my second time here. People have a good vibe and are open minded. I never have felt fear here. I was only afraid of your questions. I think you have to be careful and pick where you go. I went to Maracanã to watch Flamengo and Chapecoense. It was 1 x 0. I expected to see more goals, but it was a great experience. Brazil has a certain hype to it.

Back to the network: is neutrality viable on the Internet?

The Internet became popular because it allowed the poor to be listened, the activists to express themselves etc. But it also allowed big communication companies to monetize traffic and prevent completely free access, which benefits the public and governments. Telecommunications are becoming a commodity, like water or electricity.

What is the role of the financial crisis on this? On the one hand, it acts in favor of the big and traditional operators. On the other hand, it helps small producers, filmmakers, and app providers to sell goods, products and services to the world without paying more.

Regulatory measures aim to protect users and democratize information, but governments keep going...

Yes, government security services are doing online surveillance, operators are tagging the consumers behavior to sell this information, including political beliefs. Monitoring is growing and technical preventive measures are required. Around the world, governments are thirsty to control, and the people to resist.

Do we suffer an “infoxication” epidemic? Yes, because, before everything else, we cannot evaluate the quality of digital information. We have to be able to classify the reliable sources. There is a large flow of false information, false users etc.

Is, or was, the print world different?

In the print world, you had more options, more conditions to verify the validity and authority of a source. Nowadays, the consumer becomes a producer. He is a “pro-consumer”, a producer and consumer at the same time.

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