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Mexican Internet freedom could be in jeopardy

A  proposed bill could limit Internet freedom in Mexico at a time when tensions are running high between citizens in the government.

There are a number of stakeholders responsible for practicing and ensuring Internet freedom within a given country. Citizens are obviously one of the primary stakeholders as they are the ones that are directly affected by policies that promote or limit open online activity. Unfortunately, users are not the only people who have a say in online policy.

Private companies, such as Internet service providers and major online companies are also among the fray that dictate open Internet policy. This is because they are responsible for promoting internet traffic and offer many of the services that web surfers use, like Google and Yahoo. Finally, governments play a massive role in governing Internet freedom as they in effect, have the final say in how Internet traffic can flow. Some governments, like those in Scandinavian countries, have been great about promoting Internet freedom, however, others have been quite limiting like in Russia and China.

New rule in Mexico
Mexico could be going the way of these latter countries soon if a new law passes. The Associated Press reported that a draft of a bill that is currently being discussed in the Senate would provide ISPs and the government with certain provisions that would almost certainly limit online freedom. One would be that the authorities could temporarily prevent telecommunications signals in areas that were deemed unsafe tot he public.

In the past, this has been the case for places like prisons and other areas, but the provision would greatly expand this power. Fortunately, the Associated Press noted that the leader of the majority Institutional Revolutionary Party, said they would be backing off such provisions, following widespread protests throughout the country.

Unfortunately, there are still elements of the law that could limit online freedom, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation. For instance, telecoms would be required to store user data for 12 months, which could compromise online anonymity and provide real time GPS data if authorities sought it.

Further, the bill would allow the government to block any form of content that it deemed in appropriate at the request of an authority. This provision is a direct violation of freedom of expression. The EFF noted it would turn ISP's into "Internet cops" who would be responsible for censorship and surveillance of their customers.

Protests against the bill
While the government has responded somewhat to sentiments of Mexican citizens, it hasn't been enough for many.

"'Ley Telecom,' which supporters pass off as a much-needed reform to Mexico's telecommunications sector, is a leap in the wrong direction for freedom of expression and privacy," the EFF noted. "EFF has joined with Mexican civil society, as well as international organizations, such as La Quadrature du Net and Article 19, in addressing a letter to Mexico's Congress that expresses our opposition to the telecommunications bill and displays our support for free expression in Mexico."

These kinds of issues have been coming to forefront in many countries as governments look to take on a larger role in the way that the Internet is regulated. While the issues may differ from country to country, the trend is something that can be observed around the world. In the United States, issues about Net Neutrality have come to the forefront of policy especially following a court ruling that said the Federal Communications Commission will need to reshape the way it controls Internet traffic.

The role that the Internet plays in daily lives is one that is constantly changing especially because the service is so young. Unfortunately, if policies like those being discussed in Mexico are put into place, online freedom could be severely limited in the future.

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