The Fight for Derechos Digitales & Internet Freedom in México

On March 24 2014 Mexico’s president Enrique Peña Nieto introduced the “Ley de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión” (Law of Telecommincations and Broadcasting). This bill would dramatically change the balance of power of Mexico’s internet, and telecommunications, toward more state control, and less restraints on telecommunication corporations to censor, surveil, and discriminate on their networks. Specifically this bill would impact four major areas of Mexico’s telecommunications landscape; Accessibility, Privacy/Surveillance, Freedom of Speech/Censorship, and Net Neutrality.

i18npic.800x800.img_k-20140410-28124 Pillars Under Attack

Accessibility

In March 2013 the Mexican Senate accepted a petition with over 200K signatures supporting a proposed law that outlined certain rights to internet access. It discussed the public’s right to information and the importance of publicly accessible points of access (library computers, schools etc). However, in this new bill no such rights are supported and instead it frames the issue as only a potential goal of the private market.

Privacy / Surveillance

On the privacy/surveillance topic the bill mandates that telecommunication companies retain customer data and provide real time information (including geographic GPS data) to federal security agencies, or to any public official to whom authority is delegated. This section of the law functions completely outside the judicial system, with no warrant needed, and does not included any requirements on how gathered personal data is to be protected or used. As a side note, I was excited to see that opposition groups cited the 13 Principles on Human Rights and Communications Surveillance that was being drafted during my summer internship with the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF).

Freedom of Speech / Censorship

Perhaps most striking is the power this bill gives to the state to block and censor communications deemed a threat to “la seguridad pública y nacional a solicitud” (public order and national security). The bill gives the government the ability to mandate telecommunications companies to temporary block or disable phone, radio, and internet connections, in areas where public protests or demonstrations are occurring. Preventing political opponents from organizing themselves is a powerful tool that many Mexican’s worry will lead toward an authoritarian regime. This section of the bill also presumably allows the government to block certain websites or manipulate the internet in other ways when it sees a “national security” reason to do so.

Net Neutrality

Finally, the bill explicitly allows private telcos to offer services of varying quality, speeds, and access as they see fit. These practices will almost inevitability lead to violation of net neutrality principles which keep the internet from becoming a tiered cable-like system where customers pay different prices for access to different sites and major services (like Facebook, YouTube etc) have to pay the telecom companies in order to reach telecom customers.

La Resistencia

Since the bill’s introduction tens of thousands of Mexicans have mobilized to oppose the passage of this act. Headed by groups like ContingenteMX and #YoSoy132, several days of action have been planned to fight for Mexico’s derechos digitales (digital rights). This fight will take place both online and on the ground, and people from around the globe are encouraged to participate to put pressure on the Mexican government not to adopt this draconian legislation! This bill could set a dangerous precedent, and a threat to internet freedom anywhere is a threat a internet freedom everywhere!

Awesome Links

Below are links to some awesome related videos, websites, and more!

Hashtags to Follow

Updates

*An edited version of this post appears at Global Voices Advocacy – Get the Facts: Mexico’s #LeyTelecom (Spanish version here “Conozca los hechos: La #LeyTelecom de México“)
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  • Ruben Ponce

    Too bad bill would dramatically change the balance of power of the internet in Mexico

  • Mario Godínez

    This is for the free access to public content. We can’t allow the privatization of telecoms. As citizens, we have the right to speak out and fight for our human rights.
    La censura y el corte a las telecomunicaciones en “eventos masivos” da pie a que se cancele el internet a los ciudadanos en cualquier momento y con cualquier motivo político, es una clara violación a la libertad de expresión con fines convenientes a los intereses de las autoridades y del gobierno en particular. No podemos permitir que se sigan decidiendo situaciones sin alzar la voz y oponernos a reformas que no salvaguardan nuestros derechos e intereses.El problema deriva en que son derechos humanos, y como tales somos responsables de exigir al propio gobierno u otras instancias (internacionales) que se cumplan. Es inútil quedarse de manos cruzadas a esperar cuál es el siguiente paso que van a dar respecto a la reforma, hay que informarse, y actuar al respecto. Son nuestros derechos.