Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has pledged to spearhead a global campaign against internet censorship, insisting platforms cannot act as a “Spanish Inquisition” or stifle free speech using safety as a “pretext.”
Obrador – perhaps better known by his initials, AMLO – said his administration would contact other governments to find common ground on the issue on Thursday, adding that he would raise the matter at the next international G20 summit.
“I can tell you that at the first G20 meeting we have, I am going to make a proposal on this issue,” he said. “Yes, social media should not be used to incite violence and all that, but this cannot be used as a pretext to suspend freedom of expression.”
How can a company act as if it was all powerful, omnipotent, as a sort of Spanish Inquisition on what is expressed?
Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard elaborated, saying, “Given that Mexico, through our president, has spoken out, we immediately made contact with others who think the same.” He noted that so far, they have heard back from officials in Germany, France, the European Union, Latin America, Africa, and Southeast Asia, though did not specify each nation.
“The president’s orders are to make contact with all of them, share this concern and work on coming up with a joint proposal. We will see what is proposed,” Ebrard continued.
While AMLO gave few details about how Mexico would push back against increasingly aggressive censorship campaigns across social media, he has argued that corporations should not decide who has a voice online. Earlier this week, the president invited his Facebook followers to migrate to Telegram, whose moderation policies are seen as less strict than other major platforms.
Obrador is not the first top official around the world to voice concerns about recent social media purges – namely Twitter’s decision to boot US President Donald Trump from the site for good – with officials in Russia, Poland, and Germany, among others, also speaking out.
Earlier on Thursday, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova compared Trump’s Twitter ban to a “nuclear explosion in cyberspace,” while German Chancellor Angela Merkel has deemed the suspension “problematic.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, meanwhile, blasted Big Tech firms as a “digital oligarchy” and a “threat” to democracy following Trump’s ouster from Twitter, though nonetheless said state authorities should possess powers to regulate speech. The Polish government has similarly denounced Trump’s temporary Facebook ban, saying it “amounts to censorship.” Under a recently passed law in the country, removal of “lawful content” from social media sites is now itself illegal.
Obrador’s push against censorship is not the only stance to thrust him into the headlines as of late. He garnered attention last week after offering Julian Assange political asylum in Mexico – despite being generally supportive of the Trump administration, which is seeking to charge and imprison the WikiLeaks co-founder amid calls from some of Trump’s own supporters to grant him a pardon.
“Assange is a journalist and deserves a chance, I am in favor of pardoning him,” AMLO told reporters soon after a British judge shot down a US extradition request for the anti-secrecy activist, adding “we’ll give him protection.”