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.
4 Pillars Under Attack
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.
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.
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!
Below are links to some awesome related videos, websites, and more!
- What’s Happening in Mexico? [VIDEO] – This badass Mujer gives and English breakdown of what’s been going on. Original website with context about the video here.
- Libre Internet Para Todos – An AWWWEEESSOME website about everyhing related to Derechos Digitales! Includes beginner explanations, cool infographics, and more!
- ContigenteMX – A good summary of the objections to the bill, with additional resources. Also check out ContigenteMX’s April 21st Press Release and their letter to Congress (with international signatories).
- Es momento de #DefenderInternet [VIDEO] – Interviews with protestors on the ground in Mexico.
- ¿Cómo te afecta la Ley de Telecom impulsada por Peña Nieto? – A short Terra article that points out specfic artilces of the bill and their implications
- Mexican Youth Protest ‘Anti-Freedom of Expression’ Telecom Bill – A short English language Vice article aobut the protests (with pictures)
- Propuesta de Modificación a la Iniciativa de Ley de Telecomunicaciones – Very legal, detailed, proposed modifications to the current bill.
- #ContraElSilencioMX Global Action
- ContigenteMX Internet Rights
- EFF Breakdown of the issue
Hashtags to Follow
- #NoMásPoderAlPoder [VIDEO]
- #EPNvsInternet: Mass Campaign against Mexican Communications Bill
- Mexico City: Citizens Take to Streets Against #LeyTelecom
- #MarchaContraElSilencio #EPNvsInternet [AUDIO] – Protest Song
- Defender Internet HQ
*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“)