Mexico to require appeals on social media account blocking

Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador gives his daily morning press conference following a two-week absence after he tested positive for coronavirus, at the presidential palace, Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte)
Mexican President Andrs Manuel Lpez Obrador gives his daily morning press conference following a two-week absence after he tested positive for coronavirus, at the presidential palace, Palacio Nacional, in Mexico City, Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Marco Ugarte) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

MEXICO CITY – The party of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented for public comment a proposed set of regulations on Twitter, Facebook and other social media companies, a move that drew criticism Tuesday.

The new law proposed Monday by López Obrador's Morena party would open the companies to fines of up to $4.4 million for violating users’ right to free speech. The law would apply only to platforms that have over one million users in Mexico, apparently covering only sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok or YouTube.

The proposal would allow anyone whose account is blocked or canceled to appeal the decision. The appeals would go first to the company’s own internal committees, which would have 24 hours to affirm or revoke the suspension. Users could then appeal to telecom regulators, and if they don't like that decision, they could then further appeal cancellations through Mexican courts.

“After the blocking in January of the personal accounts of then President of the United States, Donald Trump, we had already warned on the risk of the emergence of disproportionate bills to regulate information on these platforms," Jorge Canahuati, president of the InterAmerican Press Association. said in a statement.

The head of the group's Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information, Carlos Jornet, wrote that “a bad law can generate a boomerang effect, deconstructing decades in which freedom of expression was consolidated in Mexico.”

Sen. Ricardo Monreal, the Morena party’s leader in the Senate, hopes to submit the new law for approval in three weeks.

“One of the things that affects freedom of expression occurs through impeding the right to receive information, by blocking content, as has happened in recent cases with Twitter,” according to a draft of the law that Monreal published on his web site.

The law could run afoul of the U.S.-Mexico Canada free trade agreement, which states that “no Party shall impose liability on a supplier or user of an interactive computer service on account of ... any action voluntarily taken in good faith by the supplier or user to restrict access to or availability of material that is accessible or available through its supply or use of the interactive computer services and that the supplier or user considers to be harmful or objectionable.”