Latin America and the Caribbean CyberWatch – Table of Contents

Costa Rica

Cybercrime Bill Amended to Protect Journalists

The government of Costa Rica recently announced that Ley 9048, a cybercrime law, has been amended so as not to incriminate journalists for publishing information to social media sites. The law was signed on July 10 and enacted in early November, and aims to crack down on cybercrime and hacking. The law initially raised the concerns of journalists and bloggers due to Article 288 of the bill which would incriminate those who published confidential political information in newspapers and on social media sites, with a jail time of up to six years. This article has been interpreted as a means to limit government critics and whistleblowers. Organizations such as Reporters without Borders have stated their concerns about the precedent that passing this law sets for press freedom in the country.

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Anti-Government Protesters Organize on Social Media

On November 8, protest erupted on the streets of Buenos Aires as hundreds of thousands of people marched against the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner. The march was planned and organized primarily on social media, with netizens using the hashtag #8N on Twitter and pages such as “El Anti-K” on Facebook, to discuss their views on the protest. One citizen journalist used a drone to capture video of the protests, despite the airspace above the capital being closed off. The crowd was protesting many actions of the government in the past year that have negatively impacted Argentinean society, including the suppression of press freedom, inflation brought on by currency controls, corruption, and overall lack of transparency in government.

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Trinidad and Tobago

Video Removal Request Denied by Google

Google has released a transparency report which reveals that it had received requests from the government of Trinidad to remove 10 videos from YouTube, nine which show the Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar dancing and drinking, and the other showing Attorney General Anand Ramlogan arguing with a reporter.  The report stated that Google has refused these requests and many other similar ones from governments worldwide. This news of the Trinidadian government’s attempt to censor the Internet has raised questions about press freedom in the country and the right citizens have to information online.

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Access to VOIP Services Blocked

Guyana Telephone and Telegraph (GTT), a major telecommunications company in Guyana, has blocked access to VOIP applications on DSL lines in Internet cafes, making it significantly more expensive for patrons to make calls. Many Guyanese had been getting around the monopoly GTT had on calling by using cheap or free independent VOIP plans sold at Internet cafes, in order to make calls to the US and overseas. GTT has banned the use of these applications, in order to force users to pay the higher price for their own service. Internet cafe owners are now planning to contest this decision by taking GTT to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

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Parliament Shelves Marco Civil de Internet

Brazil’s landmark Marco Civil de Internet, a bill aimed at protecting Internet user rights, has been shelved indefinitely by the Brazilian parliament. After being postponed for the fifth time on November 20 due to many last minute changes made to the text, the bill was taken off the list of bills being considered with no indication that it will be brought back. This move is a huge disappointment to Brazilian civil society, who created and supported the bill with the aim to guarantee net neutrality and user freedom. Brazil has also passed two new cybercrime bills in the last month:  the Azeredo Law, which is intended to crack down on cybercrime, and  the Carolina Dieckmann Law, which makes unauthorized access to email and private information a crime.

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Official’s Comment Sparks Debate about Cybersecurity

A comment made by Bolivian Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera, stating that he makes note of the names of people critical of the government on social media, has sparked controversy and opened a debate about Bolivian censorship and privacy. The comment has sparked responses from across the country, including a group of bloggers who have suggested that the government set up social media accounts, as President Morales is one of only three South American leaders without a Twitter account. A cybersecurity bill has also been proposed. This is not the first time that the Bolivian government has attempted to censor criticism, as this past summer they pressed charges against news outlets who published negative comments about Morales.

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