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Argentina: freedom of expression online threatened

Argentina: freedom of expression online threatened

A new proposal hoping to upgrade a discrimination policy in Argentina is underway to being reviewed by congress.  The intention is a noble one, yet the proposed way of dealing with eradicating hateful speech is problematic.

The gist of the proposal:

Argentina is revamping the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1988. Hoping to eliminate hateful commentary online.  It was recently approved by the Lower House Human Rights Committee and is now reviewed by Congress.

Issues with the proposal:

Vague language

The ambiguity of the terms proposing to ban hateful speech online is cause for serious concern. The terminology used to describe possible violation is very open-ended, whereby “discriminatory contents” are very loosely defined. Even non-violent speech in certain context could be criminalised. Issue here lies with legal interpretation, setting boundaries by authorities online and possible manipulation – all charged with potential in changing the way internet is used in Argentina.

Content supervision/moderators

The sites that allow comments or communication of any kind would have to change their Terms and Conditions, warning their readership/users that said regulations are in place. They should then monitor all communication and block any comments that are inappropriate before they end up on the site.

Regulation/fines

The proposed bill would set strict fines and possibly sentencing of up to 3 years in prison for those who assist and/or facilitate publishing of discriminatory content. Begging the question if the removal of content will have a chance to go through due process. After all, what legal capacity do content hosts have to interpret which commentary should be removed.

The combination of these issues could result in stifling of free speech. The censorship could also set a dangerous precedent in what can be published and made available online. It comes with odds with international human rights principles of supporting fundamental right of free expression.

The bill will be reviewed within the next few weeks



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