Online free speech is at risk in Mexico (Human Rights Watch)

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Social Media regulations proposed by the Lopez Obrador administration violate international norms

Mexican Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal’s proposed bill to regulate social media networks could severely restrict free speech in Mexico, Human Rights Watch said today. The bill would require companies to censor broadly defined categories of online content in violation of international norms currently in force. Senator Monreal should withdraw his proposal.

On February 8, just a few weeks after social media networks like Twitter and Facebook suspended the accounts of Former US President Donald Trump, Senator Monreal, who leads President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s party, Morena, in the Senate, published a draft bill on his website that would impose regulations on social media networks with users in Mexico. In January, President López Obrador had expressed his concern over the power of the networks to suspend Trump’s accounts.   

“This bill would place the harshest restrictions on free speech that Mexico has seen in decades, opening the door to bans on social media networks and enabling the government to censor speech it disagrees with,” saidJosé Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Senator Monreal claims he wants to protect free speech in Mexico, but this bill would do exactly the opposite.”


Mexican Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal (Photo: morena.senado.gov.mx)

The draft bill would make Mexico’s telecommunications and broadcasting regulator, the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), the final arbiter in disputes over content moderation, empowering it to overrule social media network operators’ decisions about how and when to delete a user’s content or suspend or cancel their account. And it would enable the IFT to punish social media network operators with fines of up to US $4.4 million if they fail to comply with its rules or if the IFT disagrees with their content moderation decisions. This could encourage further media concentration by forcing smaller companies to stop operating in Mexico altogether to avoid steep fines.

Under the bill, any social media network with one million or more users would need to obtain permission from the IFT to operate in Mexico. The IFT would be able to set rules about how social media networks operate and the types of content they can allow. And it would have the authority to review and change the networks’ terms of service, the rules that users must follow.

In effect, this would enable the IFT to prevent any social media network from operating in Mexico or prohibit users in Mexico from joining an “unauthorized” network, placing significant limits on freedom of expression. It could also encourage social media networks themselves to begin blocking users from Mexico to avoid the IFT review process.

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Source: Human Rights Watch

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