Photo: Social Engineering

By KELIN DILLON

National Regeneration Movement (Morena) Senator Ricardo Monreal announced on Monday, Feb. 8, the exact framework for his new initiative to regulate social networks in Mexico in his attempt to protect freedom of expression in virtual spaces.

The initiative will only apply to social media networks that have and operate over one million users, deeming them “relevant” for the proposed changes.

First and foremost, any social networks wishing to operate in Mexico will need to seek approval from the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), which will then act as a third-party liaison between the social media networks and users in the case of a user’s account being deleted or frozen, in order to make sure the account suspension or deletion wasn’t a violation of the user’s rights.

Social networks will still be allowed to suspend accounts and delete content found in violations of their terms and services using their algorithms, but only after approval from the IFT.

Permanent account deletion will require a resolution from a human right’s expert endorsing the removal, and cannot be deleted through algorithms or artificial intelligence channels. Only accounts found to be spreading false news, hateful messages or messages that promote criminal activity, or the violation of rights of minors will be held liable for permanent removal.

Under the initiative, any user whose account has been deleted will have no more than 24 hours to challenge its cancellation, which social media networks will be required to resolve within a one-day period via internal structures necessitated in Monreal’s proposal. 

If a user’s problems are not resolved favorably, they may file a complaint with the IFT to resolve the issue.

Any social network found violating a user’s freedom of expression under the constraints of Monreal’s proposa lwill be fined up between 89.62 pesos and 89.6 million pesos for its infractions.

Monreal’s initiative comes after the controversial banning of former U.S. President Donald Trump from Twitter following the U.S. Capitol riots in early January, a move which Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) emphatically criticized, referring to Trump’s removal as “a kind of Holy Inquisition on expressions, manifestations and the right to exercise freedom.”

The Latin American Internet Association (ALAI) responded to Monreal’s proposal, saying passing the initiative would be in violation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), potentially causing issues with Mexico’s international relationships.

“The need to obtain an authorization (from the IFT) violates what is established in the USMCA … by putting unjustified barriers to digital commerce that are not required in the United States or Canada, generating legal uncertainty and limiting cross-border flow of data, ” said the ALAI.

Monreal addressed the ALAI’s concern in the proposal’s initial draft, saying “with regard to content related to freedom of expression, which does not mean invading the sphere of the freedom of trade that regulates the USMCA.”

The Morena senator also announced he would not formally submit his proposal until it had received full analysis, and released the entire initiative on his site, open for public scrutiny.

Ironically, the proposal would increase the powers of the IFT, which is an autonomous organization, something which AMLO has repeatedly spoken out against and proposed absorbing into the government.

If both López Obrador and Monreal’s proposals go through, that would put the power of regulating social media squarely in the hands of AMLO’s Morena-led government.

Representatives for Facebook and Twitter, which have 85 million and 11 million respective users in the country, declined to comment on Monreal’s proposed regulations of Mexico’s social media networks.

…Feb. 10, 2021

Leave a Reply