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Mexican leaders want limits on social media sites after Trump ban

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President Donald Trump no longer has a social media platform after several sites banned it following the January 6 riot on Capitol Hill. These bans are appalling in Mexico, where the president and other leaders want to exercise more control over the ability of social media sites to restrict users. Visit Insider’s Business section for more stories.

MEXICO – The removal of President Donald Trump’s accounts from major social media sites has sparked fear among Mexican political leaders, who now want to control bans and suspensions and be able to impose financial sanctions on these companies.

Trump’s last tweet before being permanently banned came on January 8, two days after the U.S. Capitol riots.

“The 75 Million Great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and Make AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be despised or treated unfairly in any way, form or form !! ! ” Trump tweeted at 9.46am

Almost immediately, Twitter suspended Trump’s account, which had 88.7 million subscribers, for what it said was “an encouragement to those potentially considering acts of violence.”

Days later, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat also suspended Trump’s accounts indefinitely.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has criticized the companies’ decisions, saying he “doesn’t like censorship”.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador during his daily press conference in Mexico City, February 14, 2020. REUTERS / Carlos Jasso

“I don’t like anyone being censored and being denied the right to post on Twitter or Facebook,” he said at his morning press conference on January 7.

“I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I will make a proposal on this issue,” Obrador said. “Yes, social media shouldn’t be used to incite violence and all that, but it can’t be used as a pretext to suspend free speech.”

Others in the Mexican government want to go further. Senate Majority Leader Ricardo Monreal has proposed a law to “regulate and set clear limits” on social media.

“What I am looking for [for] with this proposal is to establish clear limits to social media business owners regarding bans and suspensions of personal accounts, ”Monreal told Insider.

“We don’t want more censorship, but the opposite: we want to protect the right of social media users to keep their accounts,” he said.

Monreal’s proposal would allow Mexico’s Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) to overturn decisions by social media companies on the bans. This would allow suspended users to submit an appeal to the IFT.

“This autonomous body will decide if someone violates constitutional rights on social media, and if so, the responsible companies will receive financial sanction,” Monreal said.

Mexican Senator Ricardo Monreal in the Senate in Mexico City, May 30, 2019. REUTERS / Carlos Jasso

The law would allow fines of up to $ 4.4 million for companies that violate users’ right to free speech. This would only apply to platforms with over one million users in Mexico, directly affecting Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube.

But protecting freedom by gaining more control may not be the right approach, according to Sissi De La Pea, director of the Latin-American Internet Association, a nonprofit advocating for freedom and innovation on the Internet. .

“Monreal’s proposal is an attempt against the open and free nature of the Internet. Giving the government a dominant voice on social media” could limit everyone’s freedom, De La Pea told Insider.

“These models of censorship are in place in other regimes like Russia, China or Iran. Mexico is not one of these regimes. We are an open and democratic country,” De La Pea said.

Some suspect that the social media battle in Mexico is actually political control.

On January 22, the Twitter accounts of three prominent political influencers and advocates for Mexico’s ruling party, the National Regeneration Movement, or MORENA, were closed indefinitely.

Miriam Junne, Vero Islas and “El Rey Tuitero” (“King of Twitter”) were banned from Twitter for “violating spam policies and attempting to manipulate the platform,” Twitter said.

Political columnist Julio Astillero, who has more than 700,000 followers on Twitter, suggested that the National Action Party, a right-wing opposition party, may be behind the bans.

“Today is a pivotal day for @TwitterMexico. They should reactivate @Miriam_June, @LOVREGA and @ElReyTuitero to confirm there are no factual intentions against @ lopezobrador # TwitterMustRectify,” Astillero tweeted.

“There are several other examples of violence on Twitter against politicians, officials and supporters of the so-called 4t [MORENA] and their accounts have not been canceled, ”added Astillero.

A woman on a cell phone outside a retirement home in Guadalupe, on the outskirts of Monterrey, Mexico, May 6, 2020. REUTERS / Daniel Becerril

Political analyst Lila Abed said what happened to Trump’s social media accounts cannot be considered censorship or a violation of his freedom of speech, so the debate in Mexico “is nothing short of other than a political battle “.

“I think this battle has a major political background with the pretext of fighting for freedom of expression. It is no coincidence that Mexico is going through elections in several states and they have presented this proposal all to the hour, “Abed said in a recent interview.

But Monreal said his motive was “a genuine intention to protect free speech.”

“There is no real freedom of speech today. It’s the owners of social media who can cancel your accounts and ban your content, and this is a direct infringement on freedom. autonomous body controls this and not some private owners, “he said.

But by imposing fines on foreign companies, the new law could violate the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement, signed by Trump and his counterparts, which states that “no Party shall impose liability on a provider or user of an interactive computer service. “

“In this context, Mexico would violate an international treaty, in particular Chapter 28, by granting discriminatory treatment to these companies,” Abed said.

Mexico could be the first Latin American country to pass a law to control social media, although De La Pea has said there is no need to regulate “something that is already regulated under terms and conditions “.

“The technology itself is neither good nor bad. It depends on how we use it. Ultimately, we could have avoided … this debate if we, as a society, learned to behave on social media, ”De La Pea told Insider. .

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