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The Mexican government has been trying to pass an Internet censorship and monitoring law. But heated protests from citizens forced the ruling party to back off. The government says the law is meant to institute a supervisory body to limit the control of powerful companies. The bill is unconstitutional in its current form, however.
Mexican Telecom and Internet Censorship Bill
The ruling party of the Mexican government has drafted a pro-censorship bill. It legislates the blocking of phone and Internet signals in critical locations. Cellular phone signals are already blocked in locations like prisons. But the new bill does not say where this law could be applied. It simply gives government officers the power to block signals. They can also judge what areas and events are considered critical for public safety.
This bill will also require providers of Internet and cellular phone communications to share user data with the government. There are no limits stated as to what type and how much data is to be recorded and turned over. There are also no guidelines as to cases in which the law might be applied. This the wide-ranging wording of the bill could easily result in violations of Mexican citizens’ basic rights. Media expert Raul Trejo says that the bill is unconstitutional. Such bills are popping up all over the world, but they are being shot down for the same reasons.
Many governments are worried about the implications of maintaining an open Internet. This is why they keep trying to pass legislation that limits user access or user freedoms online. At the very least, governments want to keep an eye on what people are doing online. The current bill from the Mexican Senate’s governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (IRP) supports last year’s constitutional reforms. The reforms’ purpose was to limit the degree of control that certain companies held over Mexican telecom services. The government says that they need to form a supervisory body for this.
Public Protest Forces the Bill to be Shelved
Demonstrations against the bill ensued in Mexico City last Tuesday. The march was successfully organized through social media. Hundreds of people walked through the city holding up signs. They marched peacefully against the proposed censorship and tightening of their freedoms of expression. The peaceful march towards the Senate building ended in violence, however, when police physically engaged protesters.
The IRP backed off one day after police involvement turned the protests violent. IRP leader Sen. Emilio Gamboa said that the bill would be modified. There are several portions of the bill that can be changed or removed to appease protesters. These portions, he says, are not important to its purpose anyway. He also said that the portion referring to public safety would be deleted. The section of the bill that would force telecommunications companies to release user data to the authorities will also be modified. The phrasing will be adjusted to limit these powers to existing permissions as they apply to criminal cases.