Hundreds of students and activists marched in Mexico’s capital on Tuesday to protest a telecommunications law being debated by the Mexican Senate that they say will allow the government to arbitrarily censor online content.
Protesters carrying signs reading: “No to censorship” and “Freedom of expression” walked along Mexico City’s main Reforma Avenue on their way to the Senate building after organizing the demonstration on social networks.
The government says the proposal seeks tools to combat illegal activities on the Internet, including child pornography.
One of the most controversial articles in the law would allow the government to request that Internet providers “block access to certain content, applications or services,” including cutting off cellphone service or Web access if it decided that there is a risk to public safety.
“If they can block Internet and cellphone signals whenever the government wants that will leave us very vulnerable and go against our own security,” said 30-year-old Carla Sandoval, who joined the march with a friend.
In recent years, social networks have served as the main sources of information in many parts of Mexico affected by drug violence because mainstream media has stopped sending reporters there due to security fears.
Carlos Brito, a graduate student and member of the Network in Defense of Digital Rights, said the law’s passage could lead telecommunication companies to impose limits on Web access to avoid being accused of promoting illegal acts.
“What we are saying is that maintaining neutrality on what goes on the Internet has allowed it to become what it is today,” Brito said.
Mexican Deputy Secretary of Communications Jose Ignacio Peralta posted on Twitter that the law aims to punish those who use it for illegal purposes.
“It doesn’t oppose a free Internet,” Peralta tweeted.