Social media platforms will need to justify their decision to suspend accounts belonging to Mexican authorities and could be fined for violating users’ free speech rights.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party presented a proposed set of regulations on TwitterFacebook and other social media platforms on Monday.

Should the suggested reform be made law, Mexico could join other countries that are bound by regulations to impose restrictions or fines on social media giants.

According to the law, anyone whose account is blocked or cancelled can appeal the decision. 

The company’s own internal committees have 24 hours to affirm or refuse the suspension. If users don’t receive a positive outcome on their case, they can then appeal to Mexican telecom regulators and after that, the Mexican courts.

The proposed law paves way for social media companies to pay fines of up to $4.4 million for violating users’ right to free speech.

It would apply only to platforms that have more than a million users in Mexico, meaning Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok will be subjected to the proposed law.

Lopez Obrador has been critical of social media, including the permanent suspension of former US President Donald Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter suspended Trump’s account on January 8 due to “the risk of further incitement of violence,” shortly after the Capitol Riot where the former President’s supporters attacked and invaded US Congress.

Two weeks later, Facebook joined Twitter by deactivating his account for the same reasons.

Lopez Obrador singled out a Twitter employee in Mexico, suggesting his former connections to an opposition party could compromise the company’s ability to be neutral.

Facebook and Twitter representatives have not made any comment.

“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.

On the other hand, the Latin American Internet Association (ALAI) said the proposed amendment to the federal telecommunications law would breach the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and create unjustified trade barriers.

Senate party leader Ricardo Monreal said he 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 website.

Recent regulations against tech giants

Last July, the Turkish parliament had ratified a bill to help the country effectively regulate social media, which came into effect in October.

According to Turkish laws, social media companies need to appoint a responsible representative for investigations and legal proceedings related to offences on platforms.

It defines real or legal entities that allow users to create, monitor or share online content such as text, visual, voice and location for social interaction as social network providers.

In December, Turkey's Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) slapped multiple social media giants with fines, totalling $3.8 million each, for their continued failure to hire local representatives.

If companies still do not comply with the requirement by 90 days, Turkish advertisers will be banned from their sites.

Meanwhile, the EU has made a non-binding guideline aimed at protecting users, particularly minors, against “hate speech and harmful content.”

"Online players will have to ensure, in a similar way to traditional media players, that users are protected against hate speech and that minors are protected from harmful content," the European Commission said.

"Online platforms must take action against flagged content, which incites violence, hatred and terrorism, and ensure appropriate advertising and product placement in children's programmes."

Recently, some countries such as Russia, Germany, France and Australia have enacted regulations for social media platforms, and the UK is mulling similar measures.

France introduced a 3 percent digital services tax on digital companies' revenues.

In Germany, technology companies with over two million users must introduce procedures to process complaints and remove illegal content within 24 hours.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies