Argentina

Free
72
100
A Obstacles to Access 19 25
B Limits on Content 27 35
C Violations of User Rights 26 40
Last Year's Score & Status
73 100 Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free)

header1 Key Developments, June 1, 2017 - May 31, 2018

  • Internet access became more expensive as mobile service providers announced further price hikes in 2018 (see Availability and Ease of Access).
  • In December 2017, Argentina’s telecom regulator approved the merger of Telecom Argentina and cable TV provider Cablevisión, introducing a number of conditions to address competition concerns. The merger would create the largest telecommunications group in the country (see ICT Markets).
  • Several journalists and human rights activists were targeted by seemingly organized campaigns on social media, via bots, trolls and personal accounts (see Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation).
  • Argentine authorities came under fire after they unexpectedly revoked the credentials of activists, including digital rights organizations, to attend a World Trade Organization meeting in December 2017, apparently because of “violent” comments made on social media (see Digital Activism).

header2 Introduction

While internet penetration and online engagement continued to make gains in Argentina, troll and bot activity targeting journalists and human rights activists on social media raised concerns.

Mauricio Macri came to power promising sweeping social and economic reforms following more than a decade of administrations under Néstor Kirchner (2003-2007) and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner (2007-2015). Since his inauguration, President Macri has established a new telecommunications regulator and taken steps to reform the sector. Changes included allowing operators to offer bundled services, which paved the way for a major merger between Telecom Argentina and cable TV provider Cablevisión.

The government does not regularly block or filter the internet, and issues of content removal have improved since the Argentine Supreme Court established a judicial notice and takedown system in a 2014 decision. Controversial judicial orders were issued to block the transportation mobile app Uber, though it remained available in Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, draft legislation requiring a court order to support all removal requests made progress but has not yet been approved.

While Argentina does not suffer from high levels of violence against journalists, cyberattacks against media outlets and seemingly coordinated harassment campaigns against journalists and human rights activists might have a chilling effect. The data protection authority presented a draft bill to reform the Data Protection Law in 2017, following a series of consultations. A bill was finally submitted to Congress in September 2018.

A Obstacles to Access

Access to the internet has increased consistently in Argentina over the past decade. However, a series of recent price increases have made certain mobile internet plans more expensive. Since President Mauricio Macri came into office in December 2015, a number of decrees have sought to reform the telecommunications sector with the aim of promoting convergence and boosting competition. In April 2018, the government proposed a draft bill on ICT competition and infrastructure to modify certain aspects of the regulatory framework in force, such as infrastructure sharing and the state-run satellite company ARSAT’s future spectrum assignments.

Availability and Ease of Access

Argentina’s internet penetration rate is among the highest in Latin America, above 70 percent.1 The National Institute of Statistics and Census (INDEC) recorded some 17.36 million residential internet subscriptions (fixed and mobile) in September 2017, with a slight decrease in the number of mobile broadband accounts compared to the previous year.2 Mobile penetration reached 140 percent (total connections) by the end of 2017.3

Prices for mobile phone and fixed-line broadband subscriptions are relatively high in Argentina, which may present a barrier especially for those with lower incomes.4 It is expected that a recent tax reform, which significantly reduces the tax burden on mobile services and devices, should ease costs.5 However, service providers Movistar, Personal, Claro, and Nextel announced further price hikes for pre-paid and post-paid plans in December 2017.6

Measurements of internet speed in Argentina vary, but a range of sources show that the country lags behind global averages in broadband speed. According to Speedtest, as of February 2018, Argentina’s internet speed ranked below average—in 90th place for mobile and 78th for fixed internet, slower than many other Latin American countries.7

Both government and private actors have taken steps to improve mobile services. This has included offering incentives to mobile operators that install antennas on public buildings, as well as encouraging infrastructure sharing.8 As part of efforts to improve connectivity, the government sent a draft bill on ICT infrastructure and competition to Congress in April 2018, seeking to promote infrastructure sharing among service providers, and auction off a quantity of 4G spectrum held by state-owned satellite operator Arsat (see “ICT Market”).9

In January 2018, Telecom Argentina committed to a USD 5 billion investment to increase radiobases by 20 percent and develop Next Generation Networks over the next two years.10 Rival company Telefónica also reported in January 2018 that it will have invested more than USD 2 billion between for the period 2017-2020 in fixed broadband and 4G deployment.11

In May 2016, President Macri promised to bring quality broadband to 29 million people within two years through infrastructure investments under a Federal Internet Plan.12 By March 2018, an estimated 190 locations in 19 provinces were connected under the plan,13 which was expected to reach almost 500 locations by mid-2017.14 A separate initiative launched in June 2016, the Digital Country Plan (Plan País Digital), seeks to provide free public Wi-Fi in more than 1,000 municipalities.15

Argentina operates two telecommunications satellites, Arsat-1 and Arsat-2, which launched in October 2014 and September 2015, respectively.16 After construction of the ARSAT-3 mission stalled with the change of government, the national satellite company announced that it would be partially financed by a private undertaking.17

Under the previous government, the Connect Equality initiative launched in 2010 sought to foster basic digital education among school children across the country, particularly by distributing laptops.18 With the new government, the program has been re-organized and is now called “Plan Nacional de Educación Digital” (National Plan for Digital Education)19 to include connectivity plans for rural areas and remote schools, as well as curricula in coding, robotics and ICT skills. However, it has reduced the number of computers and there have been budget cuts.20 During 2017, a public tender process for national companies was launched to purchase 450,000 laptops.21

Restrictions on Connectivity

The Argentine government does not place limits on bandwidth, nor does it impose control over telecommunications infrastructure. There have been no reported instances of the government cutting off internet connectivity during protests or social unrest. There are currently 28 functioning Internet Exchange Points (IXPs), which help to manage internet traffic efficiently.22 IXPs are strategically distributed in major cities across the country.23

ICT Market

Although there are no onerous obstacles to entering the ISP market, a handful of companies dominate the sector.

While there are numerous licensed providers offering internet services,24 Argentina’s broadband market has been dominated by just a few companies: Telefónica, Telecom Argentina, and Cablevisión (previously part of Grupo Clarín).25 The mobile sector reflects similar concentration under market leaders Movistar (Telefónica), Claro (América Móvil) and Personal (Telecom Argentina).26 In December 2017, ENACOM approved the merger between Telecom Argentina and cable TV provider Cablevisión, currently the largest telecommunications and media group in Argentina.27

ENACOM established a series of obligations when approving the merger between Telecom and Cablevisión, including returning 80 MHz of spectrum to comply with the legal limit per operator, offering certain commercial conditions in cities where it has a significant market position, and providing access to its infrastructure in a transparent and affordable way. 28 After an extensive review, the National Commission for the Defense of Competition approved the merger in June 2018, but imposed further conditions to ensure competition, notably in areas where they are the sole fixed broadband providers.29

This merger has garnered both criticism and support: critics argue that it will hurt competitiveness by concentrating many ICT-related services in a single company holding.30 31 One the other hand, supporters defend that the telecommunications industry is moving towards market structure consolidation.32

In December 2017, ENACOM also announced that, as a result of an agreement with Telefónica, CATEL, the entity representing the country’s cooperatives, would become the fourth mobile operator, working as a Virtual Mobile Operator. It was planned to begin providing services in 2018.33

Aiming to promote convergence and competition, the government has issued a series of emergency decrees and resolutions to significantly reform the telecommunications and media sector. Decree 267 issued in December 2015 notably categorized cable TV as an ICT service, releasing cable providers from obligations in the Broadcasting Law.34 Critics said this could undermine pluralism, diversity, and local content production, and accused the government of encouraging greater market concentration.35 Meanwhile, Decree 1340 issued in December 2016 allowed telecommunications companies to offer cable TV as well as internet and phone services beginning in January 2018.36

In April 2018, the government sent a draft bill on ICT competition and infrastructure, informally dubbed “the short bill,” since it proposes to regulate or modify certain aspects of the regulatory framework in force, such as infrastructure sharing, ARSAT’s future spectrum assignments, and national content requirements for on-demand and video streaming platforms.37

A company wanting to offer internet services must obtain a license from ENACOM, the national communications regulator. In 2016, Resolution 2483/2016 simplified the license registration process for ISPs.38 The application fee increased from ARS 5,000 (US$333) to ARS 20,000 (US$1,330).39 Providers can register online, according to a regulation approved in August 2016.40

Regulatory Bodies

The main telecommunications regulator, the National Authority for Communications (ENACOM), was created by presidential decree in December 2015,41 later validated by Congress in April 2016.42

The body’s composition has raised some concerns about possible executive influence. ENACOM operates within the Ministry of Modernization and has a directorate comprised of four directors chosen by the president and three proposed by Congress. ENACOM decisions can be approved by a simple majority and its members may be removed by the president.43 The ICT policymaker is the Ministry of Modernization, after the Ministry of Communications was dissolved in July 2017.44

The executive body NIC.ar regulates and registers all websites with the “.ar” top level domain name. Since 2015, registration of any domain ending in “.ar” requires an annual fee between ARS 110 and ARS 420 (US$7 and US$27).45 NIC also requires users to provide a tax ID number to register domains (see “Anonymity”).

  • 1. See: https://www.argentina.gob.ar/setic/indicadores-tics; for a regional comparison, see also: CEPAL, “Estado de la banda ancha en América Latina y el Caribe 2017,” [State of Broadband in Latin America and the Caribbean 2017], April 2018, https://www.cepal.org/en/publications/43670-state-broadband-latin-ameri…
  • 2. INDEC, “Encuesta Nacional sobre Acceso y Uso de Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación” [National Survey on Access and Use of Information and Communication Technologies], December 13, 2017, http://bit.ly/2HoYBgp
  • 3. Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones (ENACOM), “Penetración nacional de la telefonía móvil, April 2018,” Retrieved October 4, 2018, http://datos.gob.ar/dataset/enacom-penetracion-nacional-telefonia-movil…
  • 4. María Fernanda Viecens, “Precio, calidad y asequibilidad de la banda ancha: las disparidades entre los países de la región son muy importantes” [Price, quality and affordability of broadband: disparities between countries in the region are very important], DIRSI Policy Brief 2016, http://bit.ly/1TAPpcm
  • 5. GSMA, “Reforming mobile sector taxation in Argentina: A path towards a more efficient tax system, greater digital inclusion and increased prosperity,” November 2017, http://bit.ly/2p5r6s4
  • 6. “Celulares: habrá aumentos de entre 10 y 12% en las cuotas de telefonía móvil” [Cellphones: there will be price increases between 10 and 12% in mobile telephony], Infobae, December 14, 2017, http://bit.ly/2IlHFsq
  • 7. Speedtest, “Speedtest Global Index,” February 2018, http://bit.ly/2ImjmL5
  • 8. Decree 798/2016, June 22, 2016, http://bit.ly/2o4b3Zn; ENACOM, Resolution 5/2017, January 30, 2017, http://bit.ly/2mPC81k; ENACOM, Resolution 4656/2017, 9 June 2017, http://bit.ly/2pl1usl
  • 9. Ibarra presentó frente al Senado la nueva ley de telecomunicaciones [“Ibarra presented in Congress the New Telecommunications Bill], Argentina.gob.ar https://bit.ly/2rqk3LW
  • 10. “Telecom anuncia una inversión de US$ 5.000 millones para mejorar las redes y la conectividad” [Telecom announces investment of US$ 5 billion to improve networks and connectivity], Clarín, January 31, 2017, https://clar.in/2nyOOgs
  • 11. “Las telcos abren la billetera: ahora también Telefónica actualiza inversiones con la mira puesta en la convergencia” [The telcos open the wallet: now Telefónica also updates investments with an eye on convergence], Iprofesional, February 8, 2018, http://bit.ly/2FYQUkf
  • 12. “En qué consiste el Plan Federal de Internet que presentó hoy Mauricio Macri” [The Federal Internet Plan presented today by Mauricio Macri], La Nación, May 17, 2016, http://bit.ly/1NxeQu8
  • 13. “Plan Federal de Internet” [Federal Internet Plan], Argentina.gob.ar, retrieved on March 15, 2018, http://bit.ly/2Dyl9ZP
  • 14. “174 localidades se conectaron al Plan Federal de Internet” [174 localities connected to Federal Internet Plan], Revista Fibra, January 23, 2017, http://bit.ly/2jpj3SM
  • 15. Casa Rosada, “El presidente Macri lanzó en Salta el Plan País Digital” [President Macri launched the Digital Country Plan in Salta], June 15, 2016, http://bit.ly/2cg5rL6; País Digital Official website: http://bit.ly/2mUlMpn
  • 16. “El Arsat-1 llegó a la órbita geoestacionaria” [Arsat-1 reached the geostationary orbit], La Nación, October 27, 2014, http://bit.ly/1wv256C; “Lanzaron con éxito el Arsat-2 y ya está en órbita” [Successful launch of Arsat-2, now in orbit], Clarín, October 30, 2015, http://clar.in/1KTyt8h
  • 17. “Rodrigo de Loredo: "El Arsat-3 será financiado en parte por un privado que participará del negocio en la misma proporción"” [Rodrigo de Loredo: Arsat-3 will be partially financed by a private party that will participate in the business in the same proportion], Iprofesional, November 27, 2017, http://bit.ly/2Iu2fHr
  • 18. Decree 459/10, http://bit.ly/1biJ9C5; See also: Government of Argentina, “Conectar Igualdad” [Connect Equality], http://bit.ly/1Ebzusv
  • 19. National Plan for Digital Education http://planied.educ.ar
  • 20. “No cobran desde noviembre y dicen que peligra el Conectar Igualdad” [Salaries unpaid since November and “Connect Equality” said to be in danger] elentrerios.com, February 23, 2018, http://bit.ly/2HPKhhb
  • 21. “El gobierno licitará 450.000 netbooks entre fabricantes locales” [Government will tender 450,000 netbooks among local manufacturing companies] Clarín, January 26, 2017, http://clar.in/2u7Ct8I
  • 22. CABASE, “IXPs en funcionamiento” [IXPs in operation], accessed July 17, 2017, http://bit.ly/2uMTc0u
  • 23. CABASE, Map of Network Access Points (NAPs) 2018, accessed 20 March 2018, http://www.cabase.org.ar/que-es-un-nap-3/
  • 24. ENACOM, “Información de las prestadores” [Information Regarding Providers], http://bit.ly/22w0uAF
  • 25. ¿Qué significa la fusión Telecom-Cablevisión? [What does the Telecom-Cablevsión merger mean?] December 22, 2017, http://bit.ly/2GPkbeU
  • 26. “Estadísticas: mercado de telecomunicaciones de Argentina” [Statistics: telecommunications market in Argentina], Telesemana, August 4, 2015, http://bit.ly/1T6Jjf8
  • 27. “Estadísticas: mercado de telecomunicaciones de Argentina” [Statistics: telecommunications market in Argentina], Telesemana, August 4, 2015, http://bit.ly/1T6Jjf8
  • 28. ENACOM, “ENACOM aprobó la fusion de Telecom Argentina S.A. y Cablevisión S.A.” [ENACOM approved the merger between Telecom Argentina S.A. and Cablevisión S.A.], December 21, 2017, http://bit.ly/2DEhNEY
  • 29. “CNDC approves Cablevisión-Telecom merger; orders divestments,” Telegeography, July 2, 2018, https://www.telegeography.com/products/commsupdate/articles/2018/07/02/…
  • 30. Martín Becerra (blog), “Una fusión floja de papeles” [A merger with many loose ends], March 15, 2018, https://bit.ly/2HE7ZSa
  • 31. OBSERVACOM, “Más concentración de medios en Argentina” [More media concentration in Argentina], April 18, 2018, https://bit.ly/2JMPlEm
  • 32. José Crettaz (blog), “Enrique Carrier: ‘Telecom/Cablevisión tiene varios meses por delante de digestión de la fusión’” [Enrique Carrier: ‘Telecom/Cablevision has many months ahead to digest the merger], December 17, 2017 https://bit.ly/2FvcJn7
  • 33. “Un nuevo operador de telefonía móvil comenzará a funcionar en Argentina” [A new mobile operator will begin to work in Argentina], Clarin, December 12, 2017, http://clar.in/2HKcdDs
  • 34. OBSERVACOM, “Sociedad civil denuncia ante la CIDH por cambios a Ley Audiovisual. Gobierno promete “nuevo marco regulatorio acorde con el derecho internacional” [Civil society denounces changes to Audiovisual Law before IACHR. Government promises new regulatory framework in accordance with international law], April 8, 2016, http://bit.ly/2nmsoQo
  • 35. “Los especialistas opinaron sobre el decreto 267” [Expert opinions on decree 267] Revista Fibra, January 4, 2016,http://bit.ly/2cdjStz; Martín Becerra (blog), “Restauración” [Restauration], January 2016 http://bit.ly/1RG65fw.
  • 36. Decree 1340/16, December 30, 2016, http://bit.ly/2ijOhcE.
  • 37. “Senado argentino aprueba ley corta de telecomunicaciones con modificaciones” [Argentina senate approves short telecommunications law with modifications], Telesemana, July 5, 2018, https://www.telesemana.com/blog/2018/07/05/senado-argentino-aprueba-ley…
  • 38. “Government adopts the "multistakeholder" model for the development of Internet” Convergencia Latina, May 18, 2016, http://bit.ly/20XqAYj; “ENACOM publicó el nuevo Reglamento de Registro de Servicios TIC” [ENACOM published the new Regulation for the Registration of ICT Services], Revista Fibra, May 18, 2016, http://bit.ly/1V9mxrY
  • 39. Resolution 2483/2016, Official Bulletin, May 16, 2016, http://bit.ly/1X2OTFy
  • 40. ENACOM, “Inscripción online para proveedores de acceso a internet,” August 19, 2016 http://bit.ly/2nCgodV
  • 41. The decree dissolved the previous regulatory agencies, Federal Authority of Audiovisual Communication Services (AFSCA), the Federal Authority for Information Technologies and Communications (AFTIC). DNU 267/15, http://bit.ly/1UycLzB
  • 42. “El Congreso puso punto final a la ley de medios del kirchnerismo” [Congress puts final stop on Kirchner media law], Infobae, April 6, 2016, http://bit.ly/2cLKxQA
  • 43. ENACOM, “¿Qué es Enacom?” [What is Enacom?], http://bit.ly/1LHw47b
  • 44. “Gobierno oficializó cambios en ministerios: elimina Comunicaciones y Deportes pasa a Secretaría General” [The Government made changes in ministries official: it eliminated Communications, and Sports is now part of the General Secretariat], Clarin, July 17, 2017, http://clar.in/2v9JuCp
  • 45. NIC Argentina, Registration Fees, http://bit.ly/2n7Tjgk

B Limits on Content

Recent research has documented organized digital campaigning targeting journalists and human rights activists on Twitter. Controversial judicial orders were issued to block Uber, yet the transportation app remained available in Buenos Aires. Born in Argentina, the #NiUnaMenos campaign against gender-based violence has gained momentum and exemplifies the country’s increasing use of social media for political and social activism.

Blocking and Filtering

Users in Argentina have access to a wide array of online content, including international and local news outlets, as well as the websites of political parties and civil society initiatives. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and international blog-hosting services are freely available. There is no automatic filtering of online content. Law 25.690, however, requires ISPs to provide software that can allow users to choose to limit their own access to “specific websites.”1 Courts have the power to order website blocks, and have done so to protect copyright in the past.2

Controversial judicial orders have been issued in recent years to try to block the transportation mobile app Uber since its arrival in Buenos Aires, although they had limited impact. As part of a legal dispute dating back to 2016, a court in Buenos Aires issued a ruling in February 2018 to block Uber’s website and mobile application nationwide, finding it was not in compliance with the legal framework for public transportation services.3 The app continued to function as Uber appealed the decision. The national regulator ENACOM ordered ISPs to block access to the app and website, though various providers stated that blocking the app was technically difficult to implement.4

Content Removal

While no politically-motivated removals were documented during this period of coverage, courts continued to consider lawsuits from individuals requesting that search engines and platforms take down certain material. Legislation requiring a court order to support all removal requests made progress but has not yet been approved.

Judges have ordered search engines and social networks to remove content based on the right to honor and privacy, which is guaranteed under Civil Code (art. 52) and allows Argentinian citizens to prevent or repair any damage to their reputation. In December 2017, an appeal chamber confirmed the preliminary injunction ordering Twitter to delete aggressive comments and photo montages made on its platform against Argentinian celebrity Victoria Vanucci, which called her insults such as “killer,” “dog,” “cockroach,” or that expressed hatred, in reaction to photos published of her posing alongside hunted animals during a Safari in Africa.5 However, the ruling specified that it cannot impose an obligation to “monitor” the content, and that the defendant must identify the URLs of offending tweets.

Recent court decisions have established takedown criteria to avoid potential abuse of generic injunctions to restrict freedom of expression. A landmark ruling by the Argentine Supreme Court in 2014 confirmed that intermediaries should not be liable for third-party content if they did not have knowledge of alleged third-party violations.6 It established that intermediaries must remove unlawful content only if they are notified by a judicial order, thus favoring a judicial takedown regime over a “notice-and-takedown” system. On the other hand, however, the court stated that if the content involves “manifest illegality,” a private notification to the intermediary is sufficient. A recent court ruling by the Supreme Court in September 2017 reaffirmed these standards in the “Gimbutas vs Google” case.7

While such rulings improved the legal framework for content removal, another judgement in May 2017 suggested that search engines must obtain the consent of the subject before publishing thumbnail images in search results, contradicting the 2014 Supreme Court judgement which established that the right to access information extends to pictures. The ruling was issued by the Argentine Federal Court of Appeals on Civil Matters in a case that held Google and Yahoo liable for publishing results on their respective search engines that linked the name of an ex-model to porn websites.8 The Court condemned Google and Yahoo to pay Norbis ARG $1,400,000 (USD 80,000) but the ruling was appealed to the Supreme Court. Google’s lawyers had also asked the plaintiff to identify the URL for a specific page to be delisted, arguing that doing so with a simple term or an entire domain would constitute censorship.

Bills pending approval have also sought to address issues related to intermediary liability and content removal:

  • In November 2016, the Senate approved a bill on intermediaries that rejects private or administrative notice-and-takedown systems and establishes that in all cases a judicial order is necessary to remove online content.9 The draft bill was waiting to be discussed in the Chamber of Representatives.
  • Two bills criminalize the dissemination of non-consensual intimate images – also known as “revenge porn” – and state that the content must be removed by judicial order.10 One of the bills has already been approved by the Senate in December 2016.11
  • The national data protection authority presented a new data protection bill in 2017 (see “Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity”).12 The bill establishes an individual’s right to erase personal data when it is no longer necessary for its original purpose, or when there is no public purpose. The draft, which included some exceptions to protect freedom of expression, was submitted to Congress in September 2018.13

Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation

Argentina has a relatively open and diverse online media environment, as well as high rates of social media use. Self-censorship among bloggers and internet users is not widespread in Argentina, although some isolated instances of harassment might have elicited self-censorship in particular cases. Research has pointed to organized digital campaigning being conducted with a political motive.14

There have been repeated episodes of seemingly organized digital behavior through bots, trolls and personal accounts, mainly on Twitter.15 A recent report by Amnesty International documented coordinated Twitter activity targeting several journalists and human rights activists between October and November 2017. Although there is no substantial evidence that these “cyber troops” are the work of the government, such campaigns can promote chilling effects for critical journalists and human rights defenders. 16 In March 2018, the election commission announced an investigation to determine whether Cambridge Analytica had worked on Macri's presidential campaign, although the government denied its involvement with the data analytics firm.17

The government has taken steps to correct the discriminatory allocation of official advertising, which has played a major role in shaping media content both at the federal and local levels. In June 2016, the Public Communication Secretary issued an administrative resolution regulating the allocation of official advertising according to objective criteria, such as media reach, relevance of the message, geographic zone and plurality of voices.18 In November 2016, the Senate approved a bill stating that official advertising will be allocated according to principles of transparency, pluralism, federalism, and non-discrimination. 19 In August 2017, the Representatives Chamber sent the draft bill back to the Senate for its consideration, after introducing modifications that explicitly included digital media in official advertising regulations.20 In turn, the government also reduced its advertising expenditure by 7 percent from 2016 to 2017, despite of elections taking place in 2017,21 and increased investment in digital advertising, particularly on social media and search engines.22

In September 2017, Congress passed a bill to grant digital media a benefit on value-added taxes, a benefit that is already in force for printed newspapers and magazines.23

Digital Activism

Argentinians continued to use social media as a tool for political mobilization in 2017. Digital activism has played a crucial role in rallying protests to advocate for concrete action to reduce violence against women,24 since the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) went viral on social media in June 2015 during a march25 and continued to be amongst the most tweeted hashtags during 2017 and 2018.26

When in August 2017, Santiago Maldonado, a young activist from Chubut, disappeared and was found dead in October, his name became the most tweeted words of 2017.27

Social media also became a tool for political participation during mid-term elections that took place in August (primaries) and October.28 According to one survey, some 18 percent of users in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area acquired political information from social media during 2017, but this number rose to 35 percent for those under 35 years old.29 Candidates significantly increased their campaigning on social media, not only through advertising, but also by posting “backstage” videos and photos and live streaming videos.30

In an unexpected move, the Argentinian government came under fire after it revoked the credentials of some 60 activists, including digital rights organizations Access Now and Derechos Digitales, to attend the World Trade Organization ministerial meeting in December 2017.31 The government said that the bans and subsequent deportations were based on “violent” comments on social media, a claim heavily disputed by the blocked representatives.32 The incident sparked protests before the conference.33

C Violations of User Rights

Argentina does not suffer from high levels of violence against journalists, but cyberattacks against news outlets remain a concern. Several users were prosecuted and charged for issuing threats against the president and other public officials on social media. Argentina has relatively strong privacy protections and authorities must obtain a judicial warrant before conducting surveillance. Following a series of consultations, a draft bill to reform the data protection law was finally submitted to Congress in 2018.

Legal Environment

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the National Constitution.1 Argentina explicitly established online freedom of expression protections through a presidential decree issued in 1997,2 which were expanded by the Congress in 2005 to include “the search, reception and dissemination of ideas and information of all kinds via internet services.”3 Defamatory statements regarding matters of public interest were decriminalized in 2009,4 following the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling in “Kimel vs. Argentina.”5

The government has further committed to promoting the values of democracy and human rights online. In June 2016, Argentina joined the inter-governmental Freedom Online Coalition, which supports internet freedom and the protection of fundamental human rights.6 Argentina is the third Latin American country, and the first from South America, to join the coalition.

Some laws impose criminal and civil liability for online activities. Law 11.723 holds liable those who reproduce content that violates intellectual property by any means, and establishes sanctions ranging from fines to six years in prison. In November 2013, Congress approved a law amending the penal code and establishing penalties of up to four years imprisonment for online contact with a minor carried out “with the purpose of committing a crime against [the minor’s] sexual integrity.”7

In 2008, the government passed a law on cybercrime,8 which amended the Argentine Criminal Code to prohibit distribution and possession of child pornography, interception of communications and informatics systems, hacking, and electronic fraud. Some of the terms used in the legislation have been criticized as too ambiguous, which could lead to overly broad interpretation. Proposed amendments to another law, the Code of Criminal Procedure, could legalize surveillance powers that critics said were intrusive (see “Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity”).

New legislative projects emerged in 2018 that propose to reform the national criminal code to incorporate the crime of “usurpation of virtual identity.” The proposal criminalizes identity theft on social networks, with aggravated penalties if it targets a public figure.9

Other bills that could be used to punish certain forms of online speech are still pending approval. In October 2016, the Commission of Human Rights and the Commission of General Legislation of the Chamber of Representatives approved a new bill against discriminatory acts, based on various bills already submitted.10 The bill does not make any explicit reference to internet, but its broad and ambiguous language to define “discriminatory acts’’ may affect freedom of expression, including in the online sphere.

Another bill intends to criminalize cyberbullying, stating that anyone who by any means harasses, bullies or mistreats another can be fined.11 A separate bill seeks to criminalize digital identity theft.12 While it exempts parody accounts, the provision refers to parody accounts that are “clearly identifiable with that purpose.” Both bills are pending review.

In November 2017, Argentina’s Congress approved its accession to the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime.13 This raised some concerns from Argentinian digital activists and security experts, claiming that some of its terms are ambiguous and could lead to the criminalization of certain security-related practices, even when no harm is intended.14

Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities

While internet users do not generally face politically-motivated arrests or prosecutions for online speech, there is an increasing trend of prosecution related with online dissemination of content that is considered illegal, deceitful, inciting violence or hatred among citizens.

A handful of people have been prosecuted over the past few years for threatening public officials on social media. For instance, in November 2017, a man was detained for threatening the president, the governor of the Buenos Aires province, and their families through messages posted on social networks on August 28.15 Similar cases were recorded during the report’s coverage period.16

Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity

The Argentine government does not impose restrictions on anonymity or encryption for internet users. Bloggers and internet users are not required to register with the government and can post anonymous comments freely in online forums.

In general, Argentina has strong privacy standards rooted in the constitution. The National Directorate for Protection of Personal Data (DNPDP) presented a draft bill to reform the Data Protection Law in 2017, following a series of consultations.17 A bill was finally submitted to Congress in September 2018.18 It establishes the right to suppress personal data if it does not have a public purpose, and when it is no longer necessary for the purpose it was collected. However, the bill states that the right to erase personal data would not apply when the data in question is necessary for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. The DNPDP has issued legal requirements and privacy recommendations on a range of issues in the past, including video surveillance footage,19 the development of digital applications,20 and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones.21

Covert or unlawful surveillance does not seem to be widespread, although some sectors in Argentina have attempted to spy on internet users in the past. Government agencies do not systematically collect or access internet users’ metadata directly, but they may request it from service providers with a warrant.22 Interception of private communications requires a court order.23

A 2013 resolution by the Communications Secretariat of the Ministry of Federal Planning introduced data retention obligations, requiring service providers to store user data for three years. It states that providers should guarantee the telecommunications regulator “free access” to installations, and should provide “all the information that is required in the set manner and timeframe.”24 There has been no evidence to suggest that this provision was implemented in an unlawful or abusive way.

Amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code drafted in late 2016 could broaden government surveillance powers.25 The bill presented for an open consultation proposed the introduction of special methods of investigation, including remote surveillance of computer equipment, and surveillance through image capturing, localization, and monitoring. The proponents of the bill argued that the techniques are justified by the need to react appropriately and flexibly to the difficult task of combatting transnational criminal activity. Critics said the bill failed to provide a definition of hacking, merely referring to the use of “software which enables or facilitates remote access,” as well as the lack of necessary information as to the relevant authority responsible.

Telecom operators must register users’ identification information before selling them a mobile phones or prepaid SIM cards.26 A resolution signed in October 2016 established a database of personal information, requiring ENACOM to adopt measures to identify all mobile communications users in a national registry.27 Mobile operators must store the information in a safe and auditable manner, and supply information on request to members of the judiciary or public prosecutors. It does not state how long the information must be stored.

In July 2016, the National Directorate for the Registry of Internet Domain Names launched a new regulation for the administration of domain names.28 In order to register, transfer, or cancel a domain, individuals must apply for a “tax password” (Clave Fiscal) by providing the Federal Administration of Public Revenues (AFIP) with fingerprints, a facial photo, and their signature. AFIP assured local media that “it will not have information on the administration of domains and NIC Argentina will not have tax information either. The processes are independent.”29

Also in July 2016, an administrative resolution authorized the transfer of personal information of Argentinian citizens contained in the databases of the social security authority (ANSES), such as name, ID number, telephone number, and email address, to the Public Communication Secretary.30 Civil society organizations questioned the use of such data by the agency, which manages communication strategy for official activities.31 The decision was validated by the data protection authority;32 opposition party legislators challenged the resolution but their claim was rejected.33

Intimidation and Violence

Violence in reprisal for digital activities is rare, though journalists are subject to intimidation, including those who work online. The Argentine Forum of Journalism (FOPEA) reported 55 cases of harassment against journalists between January and September 2017.34

Journalists and activists have also faced harassment and smear campaigns on social media (see also “Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation”). Journalist Mónica Reviglio, a member of the #Niunamenos feminist movement, was publicly harassed by a person who had been convicted of gender-based violence after she had covered the case.35 The perpetrator was later fined for harassment, mistreatment and intimidation against the journalist.36

Technical Attacks

Government bodies are regularly subject to technical attacks, including one high profile hack involving communications at the ministry of security in 2017.37 A recent study reports that, in Argentina, between 2016 and 2017, more than 24 percent of digital media outlets were victims of some form of digital attacks.38

Government agencies have sought to strengthen their cybersecurity capacity. In January 2016, the president created the post of Undersecretary of Technology and Cyber Security under the Ministry of Modernization, in charge of developing the strategy for technological infrastructure, as well as a national cybersecurity agenda.39 In January 2017, the City of Buenos Aires launched its first computer security incident response team, focused on advising and raising citizens’ awareness on cybersecurity issues.40

On Argentina

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  • Global Freedom Score

    85 100 free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    71 100 free