Ecuador’s score improved considerably this year, mainly reflecting a lack of disruptions to connectivity during the coverage period that had previously been imposed in relation to mass protests in October 2019. Positive strides are being made in Ecuador towards increasing diversity in online content, as well as in the robustness of the country’s legal framework. Despite some hopeful trends, government actors continue to wield murky copyright claims in attempts to get critical content removed, journalists remain susceptible to legal recourse for their online activities, and a socioeconomic and geographic digital divide persists.
Elections take place regularly, and some key state institutions have recently displayed greater independence. A leftist government led by former president Rafael Correa was elected in 2007, and the subsequent decade was characterized by both economic growth and severe strain on democratic institutions. Lenín Moreno was elected in 2017 as Correa’s chosen successor, and adopted more conservative economic policies, while allowing greater space for civil society and the press. That government’s popularity plummeted following a harsh crackdown on the 2019 anti-austerity movement and the severe economic and public health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conservative Guillermo Lasso won the presidency in a contested two-round electoral contest that ended in April 2021, taking office in May.
- In a positive reversal from the previous coverage period, there were no restrictions to mobile or fixed-line connectivity or to the ability to share multimedia content (see A3, B1, and B8).
- The country’s ombudsman condemned the former Moreno government’s arbitrary use of copyright law as censorship, as the executive continued to use these tactics in attempts to get unfavorable news coverage taken down (see B2).
- Online debate around the 2021 general election featured inauthentic actors and disinformation campaigns, though their genuine impact was minimal (see B5).
- The creators of online content and the topics they address have continued to diversify in Ecuador, as citizen journalism outlets and media serving Indigenous communities have gradually gained larger followings (see B7).
- The National Assembly ratified an amendment to Article 5 of the Communication Law in January 2021, bringing a years-long debate on the definition of communication media as either public service or a right to a close (see C1).
- A data protection law was approved in May 2021 that creates an independent body for data protection and is considered one of the most advanced pieces of legislation of its kind in the region (see C6).
|Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections?||4.004 6.006|
Internet access in Ecuador has increased over the past few years. According to the Agency for the Regulation of Telecommunications (ARCOTEL), 67.55 percent of the population had internet access by March 2021, compared to 45.91 percent five years prior.1
Fixed-line broadband penetration is relatively low, at 13.16 percent as of March 2021.2 Six percent of the 221 Ecuadorian cantons (subdivisions of provinces) lack fiber-optic cable infrastructure to connect to the internet, phone services, or digital television, according to an October 2018 report from Ministry of Telecommunications (MINTEL).3 According to Speedtest Global Index, the average fixed-line broadband download speed in June 2021 was 33.69 megabits per second (Mbps), and the average upload speed was 29.20 Mbps,4 compared to an average download speed of 24.54 Mbps and average upload speed of 21.11 Mbps in June of the previous year.
Meanwhile, mobile internet penetration stood at 54.39 percent as of March 2021.5 Government data shows that, as of May 2021, 8.92 million out of 16 million active mobile lines were using long term evolution (LTE) technology.6
The government’s Universal Service Plan for 2018–21 aims to increase availability and access nationwide, notably by deploying up-to-date technologies such as LTE and fiber-optic networks in previously underserved areas.7 In July 2019, the government announced the Digital Ecuador policy, which is meant to create an electronic government in conjunction with stronger connectivity.8 The policy is comprised of three axes—connectivity, efficiency and digital security, and innovation and competitiveness—and is aligned with the government’s Internet for All plan. The latter, launched in November 2019, aims to raise national connectivity to 98 percent by 2021, including by increasing 4G connectivity and deploying 5G networks.9 As of February 2021, the policies for the deployment of 5G networks were still pending.10
- 1Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Cuentas y usuarios del servicio de acceso a internet [Subscriptions and users of the internet access service],” May 2021, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/3.1.1-Cuentas-int…
- 2Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Cuentas y usuarios del servicio de acceso a internet [Subscriptions and users of the internet access service],” May 2021, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/3.1.1-Cuentas-int…
- 3Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Plan de Servicio Universal 2018- 2021 [Plan of Universal Service],” October 2018, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Plan-d….
- 4Ookla®Speedtest Global Index, “Ecuador: June 2021,” Accessed July 29, 2021, https://www.speedtest.net/global-index/ecuador#fixed.
- 5Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Cuentas y usuarios del servicio de acceso a internet [Subscriptions and users of the internet access service],” May 2021, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/3.1.1-Cuentas-int…
- 6Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Servicio Móvil Avanzado [Advanced Mobile Service],” May 2021, http://www.arcotel.gob.ec/servicio-movil-avanzado-sma_3/.
- 7Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Plan de Servicio Universal 2018- 2021 [Plan of Universal Service 2018-2021],” October 2018, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Plan-d….
- 8Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Acuerdo Ministerial No. 015-2019 [Ministerial Agreement No. 015-2019],” August 2020, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/Acuerd….
- 9Andrea Rodríguez and Diego Ortiz, “Internet Para Todos prevé una conexión nacional del 98% al 2021 [Internet for All foresees a national connection of 98% by 2021],” El Comercio, November 28, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/internet-conexion-ecuador-tecnolo…. Paula Bertolini, “El plan Ecuador Digital incluye mil zonas Wi-Fi gratuitas, reducción de los precios de smartphones y frecuencias 5G para 2021 [The Ecuador Digital plan includes a thousand free Wi-Fi zones, a reduction in smartphone prices, and 5G frequencies by 2021],” DPL News, May 21, 2019, https://digitalpolicylaw.com/el-plan-ecuador-digital-incluye-mil-zonas-….
- 10“Ecuador aún mira de lejos la implementación de la tecnología 5G [Ecuador still watches from afar the implementation of 5G technology],” El Universo. February 9, 2021, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2021/02/04/nota/9613575/tecnologia-…
|Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons?||1.001 3.003|
Internet access is relatively expensive. A monthly internet subscription cost an average of $31 in 2020.1 The average cost of 1 GB mobile data fell to $1.06 in 2021, down from $3.24 the previous year.2 A household earning the minimum wage, which was $400 per month in 2020, would need to spend about 23 percent of their monthly income to afford landline, mobile-phone, internet, and cable-television services.3 As of September 2020, 23.4 percent of the workforce earned less than the minimum wage.
The government implemented several initiatives to keep internet access affordable during the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 22nd, 2020, MINTEL prohibited mobile service providers and internet service providers (ISPs) from cutting services for nonpayment during the pandemic-related emergency, with the grace period ending that November.4 In September 2020, the Ecuadorian Association of Internet and Value-Added Providers (AEPROVI) reported that 50 percent of its subscribers had stopped paying for residential fixed-line services since the pandemic began.5 MINTEL and the National Telecommunications Corporation (CNT), a state-owned ISP, also offered a service entitled “the student chip” to connect students to online instruction platforms created by the Ministry of Education. “The student chip” provides 5 GB of internet access for $5.59 to 4 million children attending public schools.6
Socioeconomic and geographic disparities in internet access persist in Ecuador, though the government has introduced initiatives to narrow the gaps. Underserved zones are mostly in the Amazon region, but other areas lacking infrastructure include the southern mountains, the coastline, and the Galapagos Islands. According to baseline statistics compiled for the Internet for All plan in 2019, around 38 percent of the country’s parishes lack a mobile internet connection, and only 16 percent of parishes have 4G connectivity.7 As part of the plan, the cost of fixed services was reduced to $9.50 by March 2020 in 214 rural parishes. In addition, recipients of the Human Development Bonus, a cash transfer program, received lower mobile rates from private operator Claro.8
There is a significant divide in internet access between urban and rural households. Nonetheless, official statistics showed a significant spike in internet access between 2018 and 2019. Urban access went up to 56.1 percent from 46.6 percent, while access in rural households went up to 21.6 percent from 16.1 percent.9 Fixed-line subscriptions remain concentrated in two provinces with higher levels of urbanization: Guayas (28 percent of subscriptions) and Pichincha (31 percent).10 Among people aged 15 to 49, digital illiteracy is also significantly greater in rural areas (20 percent) than in urban areas (7.8 percent), and heavily impacts Indigenous people and marginalized ethnic groups. Digital illiteracy is also greater among women (12.1 percent) than men (10.6 percent).11
State-run “Infocentros” provide free internet in rural areas.12 As of January 2020, there were 886 Infocentros and 25 larger “Megainfocentros,” covering 727 rural and underserved urban parishes, or 59 percent of all parishes.13 Their future came into doubt in 2020, however, due to budget concerns.14
- 1Calculation based on prices offered by major providers; “Paquetes de Internet se cotizan desde USD 9,99 en Ecuador [Internet packages are priced from USD 9.99 in Ecuador],”El Comercio, September 8, 2020, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/paqutes-internet-ecuador-precios-…
- 2“Worldwide mobile data pricing 2021,” Cable Company, April 16, 2021, https://www.cable.co.uk/mobiles/worldwide-data-pricing/.
- 3Calculations based upon data on utilities services fees and monthly average income in the country by the National Institute of Statistics and Census (INEC); “Salario mínimo se mantiene en USD 400 en el 2021; Gobierno anuncia dos compensaciones [Minimum wage remains at USD 400 in 2021; Government announces two compensations,” El Comercio, November 30, 2020, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/salario-basico-trabajadores-ecuad…
- 4Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Society, Ministerial Agreement No. 009-2020, March 22, 2020. https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Nuevo-…
- 5Sebastian Angulo, “Proveedores de Internet se declaran en crisis [Internet providers declare themselves in crisis],” Expreso, September 10, 2020, https://www.expreso.ec/actualidad/economia/proveedores-internet-declara…
- 6Andrés Michelena, @caanmichelena, “Consolidamos el #EcuadorDigital: Implementaremos en el país 2000 puntos WIFI más; Con CNT entregamos el chip Prepago Estudiantil de 5GB; Fortalecemos #InternetDelBarrio y #ConectandoComunidades; Pronto normativa para Transformación Digital. @Lenin [We consolidate #EcuadorDigital: We will implement 2,000 more WIFI points in the country; With CNT we deliver the 5GB Student Prepaid chip; We strengthen #InternetDelBarrio and #ConectandoComunidades; Soon regulations for Digital Transformation. @Lenin],” September 10, 2020, https://twitter.com/caanmichelena/status/1304215290331435012
- 7Andrea Rodríguez and Diego Ortiz, “Internet Para Todos prevé una conexión nacional del 98% al 2021 [Internet for All foresees a national connection of 98% by 2021],” El Comercio, November 28, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/internet-conexion-ecuador-tecnolo….
- 8“Gobierno presentó planes de internet a bajo costo [Government presented internet plans at low cost],” El Telégrafo, November 27, 2019, https://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/economia/4/planes-internet-bajo….
- 9National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), “Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación. Encuesta Multipropósito - TIC 2019 [Information and Communication Technologies. Multipurpose Survey - ICT 2019],” Accessed February 20, 2021, https://www.ecuadorencifras.gob.ec/documentos/web-inec/Estadisticas_Soc…
- 10Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Cuentas y usuarios del servicio de acceso a internet [Subscriptions and users of the internet access service],” July 2020, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/3.1.1-Cuentas-int….
- 11National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INEC), “Encuesta Tecnológica 2019. Tecnologías de la Información y Comunicación [Technology Survey 2019. Information and Communication Technologies],” Accessed February 20, 2021, https://www.ecuadorencifras.gob.ec/documentos/web-inec/Estadisticas_Soc…
- 12Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Infocentros Comunitarios [Community Infocenters],” December 27, 2019, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/infocentros-comunitarios/
- 13Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Datos Generales Infocentros [General Information Infocentros],” January, 2020, https://infocentros.mintel.gob.ec/estadisticas-infocentros/; Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Association (MINTEL), “Preguntas frecuentes [Frequently Asked Questions],” January, 2020, https://infocentros.mintel.gob.ec/preguntas-frecuentes/.
- 14Nelson Dávalos. “Más de 4 millones de personas serán afectadas por cierre de infocentros [More than 4 million people will be affected by the closure of infocenters],” Primicias. July 20, 2020, https://www.primicias.ec/noticias/tecnologia/millones-personas-seran-af…
|Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity?||6.006 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 4 to 6 because there were no connectivity disruptions during the coverage period unlike disruptions during protests held in October 2019.
There were no internet disruptions in Ecuador during the coverage period, and no evidence of throttling or network shutdowns. Social media and communications and video streaming platforms remained readily available. However, disruptions to internet access have occurred in the past. Amid mass protests in October 2019, government-owned CNT experienced general connectivity disruptions and disrupted access to Facebook and WhatsApp (see B1 and B8).1 For a brief period later that month, mobile service provider Claro allegedly imposed connectivity interruptions across large swathes of the country and in Quito.2
Ecuador’s physical infrastructure is not highly centralized. Three submarine cables provide connection to the global internet, and three major ISPs—two of which are private—control their own national infrastructure. 3
A provision in the 2015 Organic Law of Telecommunications grants the president the power to unilaterally take over telecommunications services in times of national emergency.4 Civil society groups have raised concerns over the provision’s scope and the possibility for government abuse due to the vague standards of the law and the lack of independent or impartial oversight.5
- 1Veridiana Alimonti, “Protests and Technology in Latin America: 2019 in Review,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, December 24, 2019, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2019/12/protests-and-technology-latin-ame…; “Evidence of social media disruptions in Ecuador as crisis deepens,” NetBlocks, October 9, 2019, https://netblocks.org/reports/evidence-of-social-media-disruptions-in-e….
- 2“Mobile internet disrupted in Quito as Ecuador political crisis escalates,” NetBlocks, October 13, 2019, https://netblocks.org/reports/mobile-internet-disrupted-in-quito-as-ecu….
- 3Andre Lucena, “Submarine cables: map shows all connections in Latin America,” Olhar Digital, March 19, 2021. https://olhardigital.com.br/en/2021/03/19/internet-e-redes-sociais/cabo…
- 4National Assembly of Ecuador, “Ley Orgánica de Telecomunicaciones [Organic Law of Telecommunications],” February 12, 2015, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2016….
- 5Katitza Rodriguez, “Leaked Documents Confirm Ecuador’s Internet Censorship Machine,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, April 14, 2016, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2016/04/leaked-documents-confirm-ecuadors….
|Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers?||4.004 6.006|
Ecuador has four major ISPs covering more than 80 percent of the market. The state-owned CNT dominates the market with 41.36 percent of the share of fixed-line services. The other three are: Megadatos (17.48 percent), Setel (11.25 percent), and Conecel (Claro) (11.22 percent). Mobile service providers, on the other hand, are an oligopoly: Conecel (Claro) holds 58.18 percent of the market, followed by Otecel (Movistar) with 26.15 percent, and CNT with 15.67 percent.1
A January 2019 report from the country’s general comptroller investigated concessions awarded to TELCONET to build a submarine cable and found irregularities in the process.2 The report was referred to the attorney general’s office to undertake a criminal investigation.3 Audio leaks released by news site La Posta in January 2019 suggested that former ARCOTEL officials manipulated the ISP market’s competitiveness by awarding concessions to providers whose owners had ties to former vice president Jorge Glas.4 The investigation appeared to be ongoing, but no further information was made public as of May 2021. 5
- 1Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Cuentas y usuarios del servicio de acceso a internet [Subscriptions and users of the internet access service],” July 2020, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/3.1.1-Cuentas-int….
- 2General Contralory of the State, “Agencia de Regulación y Control de las Telecomunicaciones ARCOTEL. Informe general [Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency ARCOTEL. General Report],” March 5, 2020, https://4pelagatos.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Cable-submarino-Contr….
- 3“Contraloría y Telconet, en disputa por Cable Andino [Contralory (of the State) and Telconet, in dispute over Cable Andino],” El Universo, January 23, 2019, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/01/23/nota/7152482/contraloria….
- 4“Audio sugiere ‘influencia’ de operadores en Arcotel [Audio suggests operators’ ‘influence’ in Arcotel],” El Universo, January 25, 2019, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/01/25/nota/7155848/audio-sugie….
- 5Roberto Aguilar, “Diana Salazar: ‘Debería hacerse un análisis de probidad de los contratistas’ [Diana Salazar: ‘There should be a probity analysis of contractors’],” El Expreso, May 25, 2020, https://www.expreso.ec/actualidad/deberia-hacerse-analisis-probidad-con….
|Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner?||2.002 4.004|
Created by the 2015 Organic Law of Telecommunications, ARCOTEL is linked to MINTEL and is responsible for technical aspects of administration, regulation, and control of the telecommunications sector and the radioelectric spectrum.1 ARCOTEL’s directors are appointed directly by the president, a process that may undermine the body’s independence.2
The agency has had frequent director-level turnover, with eight changes in leadership between 2017 and 2020.3 Juan Carlos Martínez, who was removed after just five days in office in January 2019, claimed that his dismissal was linked to his aim to combat corruption within the agency.4 In March 2020, Ricardo Freire Granja—who held office between January 2019 and March 2020—was fired for delaying the schedule for the allocation of radio and television frequencies for almost a year. The new director, Xavier Aguirre Pozo, previously served as information undersecretary.5
Access providers and other internet-related organizations are allowed and, to a certain extent, are encouraged to establish self-regulatory mechanisms. Examples of this include the public assistance to develop public and private Computer Security Incident Response Teams (CSIRT); the local internet exchange point (NAP.ec) managed by AEPROVI; and the Ecuadorian IPv6 Task Force, among others. The allocation of digital assets—such as domain names or internet protocol (IP) addresses, which are designated by NIC.ec—is not controlled by the government. 6 The former media regulator, the Superintendency of Information and Communications (SUPERCOM), was eliminated in July 2019 by the reform to the Communication Law that went into effect in February 2020. SUPERCOM was highly criticized for acting as a tool for political censorship.7
- 1National Assembly of Ecuador, “Ley Orgánica de Telecomunicaciones [Organic Law of Telecommunications],” February 12, 2015, https://www.grupotvcable.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/ley_organica_de….
- 2Leticia Pautasio, “Ecuador: Ley de Telecomunicaciones entra en vigencia y Arcotel inicia sus funciones [Ecuador: Telecommunications Law enters into force and Arcotel starts its work],” TeleSemana.com, March 6, 2015, https://www.telesemana.com/blog/2015/03/06/ecuador-ley-de-telecomunicac…
- 3“Tercer director de Arcotel en menos de quince días [Third director of Arcotel in less than fifteen days],” El Universo, January 21, 2019, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/01/21/nota/7151390/tercer-dire…; “Arcotel posesiona a su séptimo director en casi 2 años [ARCOTEL is on its seventh director in almost 2 years],” Ecuavisa, February 14, 2019, https://www.ecuavisa.com/articulo/noticias/politica/459096-arcotel-pose….
- 4Patricia Carolina González, “Nuevo director de la Arcotel solo duró cinco días en el cargo [New Arcotel director only lasted five days in office],” El Comercio, January 21, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/nuevo-director-martinez-arcotel-r…; “Cambian a director de Arcotel que removió funcionarios [They change to Arcotel director who removed officials],” Ecuavisa, January 21, 2019, https://www.ecuavisa.com/noticias/ecuador/cambian-director-arcotel-que-…
- 5“Nuevo director en la Agencia de Telecomunicaciones [New director at the Telecommunications Agency],” El Universo, March 13, 2020, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2020/03/13/nota/7779873/nuevo-direc…
- 7“La máquina sancionadora de medios llamada Supercom [The media sanction machine called Supercom],” Plan V, January 10, 2017, https://www.planv.com.ec/historias/sociedad/la-maquina-sancionadora-med….
|Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||6.006 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 5 to 6 because there were no disruptions to content delivery networks or backend image servers during the coverage period, unlike disruptions during protests held in October 2019.
Systematic blocking or filtering of content is not common in Ecuador. There were no reports of technical blocking of social media platforms, communication apps, blog-hosting platforms, or discussion forums during the coverage period. Likewise, there were no reports of blocking of tools for anonymization of navigation or circumvention of censorship.
During the previous coverage period, however, CNT did disrupt its content delivery network and backend image servers following the death of a protester in October 2019. These allow for the circulation of audio, images, and videos, and fixed-line internet users were briefly unable to share such content via WhatsApp and Facebook.1 The national copyright directorate of the National Service of Intellectual Rights had also instructed providers to block some URLs and IPs earlier that summer for violating transmissions rights and copyright infringement.2
- 1“Evidence of social media disruptions in Ecuador as crisis deepens,” NetBlocks, October 9, 2019, https://netblocks.org/reports/evidence-of-social-media-disruptions-in-e…; Ellery Roberts Biddle and the Netizen Report Team, “Netizen Report: Iraq and Ecuador face network shutdowns amid public protests,” Advox, October 11, 2019, https://advox.globalvoices.org/2019/10/11/netizen-report-turkey-iraq-an….
- 2Valentina Rodríguez, “Ecuador bloquea cinco páginas web por vulnerar derechos de autor [Ecuador blocks five web pages for violating copyright],” Primicias, June 6, 2019, https://www.primicias.ec/noticias/tecnologia/ecuador-bloquea-cinco-pagi…; “Senadi anunció bloqueo de direcciones IP que permiten acceder a señales de televisión por internet [Senadi announced the blocking of IP addresses that allow access to Internet television signals],” El Universo, August 19, 2019, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/08/19/nota/7478499/senadi-anun….”
|Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards?||2.002 4.004|
In July 2020, the president’s office, through Iomart Group PLC, a UK firm, requested the removal of five news reports from the media outlet La Historia, ostensibly due to copyright violations for the use of photographs of Moreno and other government officials that belonged to the presidency and the communication secretary. The stories in question referred to Moreno’s daughter’s position in the Ecuadorian foreign service, political negotiations, accusations of corruption involving allies of the governing coalition, corruption investigations in the health sector, and a report on another takedown request by the presidency made months earlier for a video on La Historia’s Twitter account.4 Ecuador’s ombudsman ordered the Communications Secretariat to withdraw the suit shortly thereafter, condemning the arbitrary use of copyright law by public institutions as censorship.5
Previously, in December 2019, Twitter suspended the account of the ombudsman’s office for three days, shortly after it published an access-to-information report. While the suspension apparently occurred after the account was reported for spamming, Twitter never provided an official justification.6 In July of that year, Twitter also suspended the account of investigative news site La Fuente. The site had been removed by its server that month without notice due to a copyright-infringement complaint lodged by the presidency. Though not specified, the articles related to Moreno, other politicians, and the now-defunct site INA Papers, which had disclosed content including documents related to offshore accounts under the name of Moreno’s brother. La Fuente ultimately moved to another server and, spurred by multiple censorship attempts around corruption investigations, changed its name to Periodismo de Investigación (Investigative Journalism) and created a new Twitter account.7
- 1Maira Sutton, “State Censorship by Copyright? Spanish Firm Abuses DMCA to Silence Critics of Ecuador's Government,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, May 15, 2014, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2014/05/state-censorship-copyright-spanis…; Alexandra Ellerbeck, “How U.S. copyright law is being used to take down Correa's critics in Ecuador,” Committee to Protect Journalists, January 21, 2016, https://cpj.org/blog/2016/01/how-us-copyright-law-is-being-used-to-take….
- 2“La Presidencia demanda a 4Pelagatos [The presidency demands 4Pelagatos],” 4 Pelagatos, February 4, 2020, https://4pelagatos.com/2020/02/04/la-presidencia-demanda-a-4pelagatos/; “Portal Ecuadorinmediato recibe 10 denuncias por mal uso de fotografías [Portal Ecuador Inmediato receives 10 complaints for misuse of photographs],” Fundamedios, August 7, 2019. https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/portal-ecuadorinmediato-recibe-1…; “Web de La Fuente es dado de baja luego de una denuncia de la Presidencia de la República [La Fuente website is taken down after a complaint by the Presidency of the Republic],” Fundamedios, July 12, 2019. https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/web-de-la-fuente-es-dado-de-baja…
- 3“Video del portal La Historia fue dado de baja en Twitter por supuesta violación de derechos copyright [Video of the portal La Historia was taken down by Twitter for alleged copyright infringement],” Fundamedios, accessed March 6, 2020, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/twitter-leninmoreno-derechos-dig…
- 4“Gobierno contrata empresa en Reino Unido para censurar a La Historia [Government hires a company in the United Kingdom to censor La Historia],” La Historia, July 23, 2020, https://www.lahistoria.ec/2020/07/23/gobierno-contrata-empresa-en-reino…
- 5“Piden a Presidencia de Ecuador retirar demandas por copyright sobre imágenes públicas [They ask the Presidency of Ecuador to withdraw copyright lawsuits on public images],” Portal Diverso, July 27, 2020, https://portaldiverso.com/piden-a-presidencia-de-ecuador-retirar-demand…; “Video del portal La Historia fue dado de baja en Twitter por supuesta violación de derechos copyright [Video of the portal La Historia was taken down by Twitter for alleged copyright infringement],” Fundamedios, March 6, 2020, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/twitter-leninmoreno-derechos-dig….
- 6Freddy Carrión Intriago, “Informamos a la ciudadanía que la cuenta de la red social Twitter de la Defensoría del Pueblo ha sido suspendida y, por lo tanto, alertamos que cualquier tipo de información institucional será anunciada a través de otros canales oficiales [We inform citizens that Ecuador Ombudsman’s account on Twitter has been suspended and, therefore, we alert that any type of institutional information will be announced through other official channels],” Defensoría del Pueblo, December 20, 2019, https://www.dpe.gob.ec/informamos-a-la-ciudadania-que-la-cuenta-de-la-r…; Defensoría del Pueblo, @DEFENSORIAEC, “Comunicado | La #DefensoríaDelPueblo de #Ecuador agradece a quienes apoyaron a la institución durante la suspensión de su cuenta oficial de Twitter [Statement | The Ecuador Ombudsman thanks those who supported the institution during the suspension of its official Twitter account],” December 23, 2019, https://twitter.com/DEFENSORIAEC/status/1209243027899928576
- 7“Web de La Fuente es dado de baja luego de una denuncia de la Presidencia de la República [La Fuente website is taken down after a complaint by the Presidency of the Republic],” Fundamedios, July 12, 2019, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/web-de-la-fuente-es-dado-de-baja…; “Twitter cierra nuevamente la cuenta de portal digital investigativo [Twitter closed again the digital portal Investigative Journalisam account],” Fundamedios, July 25, 2019, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/twitter-cierra-nuevamente-la-cue….
|Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process?||2.002 4.004|
Reforms to the Communication Law, enacted in February 2019, seemed to promise a less restrictive environment for media outlets. The reform signaled a move away from the punitive system established under the former Correa administration, which was highly politicized and prone to abuse.
A significant element of the Communication Law reforms was the elimination of SUPERCOM. Under the Correa government, SUPERCOM had aggressively pursued print media (including all media with an online presence), accusing them of unbalanced reporting and “media lynching”—an allegation that was often applied to investigative reporting in Ecuador.1 The reforms also removed digital media and content providers’ liability over user comments, while upholding their responsibility over editorial content published by uncredited authors.2
However, ARCOTEL is still authorized to block internet domains that violate national laws. ARCOTEL’s agenda for 2019 included the development of a technical norm that should add more transparency by outlining blocking and notification procedures to be followed by the regulator.3 The development of this technical norm was still pending as of May 2021. There are currently no efficient and timely avenues of appeal for content subject to censorship.
- 1Silvia Higuera, “Ecuador’s National Assembly eliminates controversial sanctioning body with reforms to Communications Law,” Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, December 20, 2018, https://knightcenter.utexas.edu/blog/00-20435-ecuador%E2%80%99s-nationa….
- 2National Assembly of Ecuador, “Ley Orgánica Reformatoria a la ley Orgánica de Comunicación [Amendment of the Organic Law of Communication],” February 20, 2019, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/sites/default/files/private/asamble….
- 3Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “La ARCOTEL difundió la Agenda Regulatoria que ejecutará en 2019 [ARCOTEL disseminated the Regulatory Agenda it will execute in 2019],” December 27, 2019, http://www.arcotel.gob.ec/la-arcotel-difundio-la-agenda-regulatoria-que….
|Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship?||3.003 4.004|
Coverage of corruption cases and government abuses of power has increased in recent years. News related to drug trafficking and armed groups on the northern border with Colombia must be treated with special care.
Despite the lower levels of self-censorship, coverage of sensitive events has been found to vary between traditional mass media and independent digital outlets. Researchers found, for instance, that reporting on the October 2019 protests followed a government narrative for the former, while the latter tended to cover events from the perspectives of the protesters.1
- 1Jose Robalino, “Hay un cerco y un circo mediático, por parte de los medios privados, en torno a las causas de las protestas [There is a fence and a media circus, by the private media, around the causes of the protests],” Pichincha Comunicaciones, October 29, 2019, https://www.pichinchacomunicaciones.com.ec/hay-un-cerco-y-un-circo-medi…
|Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest?||2.002 4.004|
Progovernment trolling, harassment of critics, and punitive media restrictions were particularly prevalent under former president Correa. Though government-led manipulation tactics eased after Moreno took office, there has been evidence of information manipulation by current government over the past two years.
Inauthentic activity and disinformation campaigns relating to the February 2021 electoral period was noted in the months surrounding the vote. In March 2021, Facebook removed a network of 390 Facebook accounts, 6 pages, and 17 Instagram accounts targeting Ecuador and originating in Spain and Argentina. Though their authentic followings were small, with about 70 accounts following one or more of the pages and around 1,100 users following one of the Instagram accounts, their content mainly involved the 2021 presidential election, including allegations of corruption and general criticism of candidate Andrés Arauz.1 High rates of engagement with Ecuadorian electoral Twitter content originating in Venezuela were also recorded during the electoral run-up. Elector Ecuador noted evidence of eight Twitter campaigns against then presidential candidate Guillermo Lasso, and one such Twitter campaign against Arauz.2 ProBox reported 36 trending topics in Venezuela that referred to the Ecuadorian elections.3 Disinformation campaigns about both candidates spread on WhatsApp around this period. 4
Efforts to counteract electoral disinformation also emerged during the coverage period. Ahead of the February 2021 electoral round, for instance, the Ecuador Verifica initiative was created with the purpose of combating misinformation and fact-checking presidential candidates. Ecuador Verifica included 14 media and 9 civil society organizations, as well as 7 universities, with support from the National Democratic Institute.5
Developments around electoral inauthentic activity from previous elections also surfaced during the coverage period. In July 2020, Facebook removed 41 Facebook accounts, 77 pages, and 56 Instagram accounts for violating their foreign-interference policy. The accounts’ activities originated in Canada and Ecuador and mainly targeted El Salvador, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Chile. Facebook found links to political consultants and former government employees in Ecuador and a Canadian public-relations firm known as Estraterra.6 The network was particularly active in Ecuador during the 2017 presidential campaign period, though it continued to produce content about Ecuadorian politics and the country’s COVID-19 response throughout April 2020.7
During the previous coverage period, an investigation by Código Vidrio alleged that the COVID-19 pandemic was exploited by Correa and his supporters to orchestrate coordinated disinformation campaigns. A series of 13 disinformation campaigns included fabricated content showing corpses on city streets and mass graves being dug in the city of Guayaquil, one of the country’s first COVID-19 hotspots. Coordination for campaigns originating from Ecuador reportedly occurred through at least 25 groups on the messaging app Telegram. Members disseminated content on Facebook, WhatsApp, and Twitter. Other disinformation campaigns originated in countries such as Mexico and Argentina, where several former officials and intelligence agents live.8
- 1“March 2021 Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior Report,” Facebook, https://about.fb.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/March-2021-CIB-Report.p…
- 2Elector Ecuador, @ElectorEcuador, “#Elecciones2021EC En @Twitter en Venezuela se crearon tendencias sobre candidatos de #Elecciones2021EC [# Elecciones2021EC In @Twitter in Venezuela trends were created on candidates of # Elecciones2021EC],” April 12, 2021, https://twitter.com/ElectorEcuador/status/1381704910362832904
- 3Marivi Marín Vázquez, @marivimarinv, “En marzo registramos al menos 36 tendencias sobre Ecuador en Twitter Venezuela, hay cierto porcentaje de coincidencia de usuarios “tropa” del MIPPCI y al menos 10 etiquetas tienen el tweet de origen borrado. ¿Propaganda al candidato de Correa? [In March we registered at least 36 trends about Ecuador on Twitter Venezuela, there is a certain percentage of coincidence of “troop” users of the MIPPCI and at least 10 labels have the origin tweet deleted. Propaganda for Correa's candidate?],” April 14, 2021, https://twitter.com/marivimarinv/status/1382500187390771205
- 4Usuarios Digitales, @usariosdigital, “#Elecciones2021EC #ObservaciónElectoral 2da Vuelta. [#Elecciones2021EC #ObservaciónElectoral 2nd round]”, April 14, 2021, https://twitter.com/usuariosdigital/status/1382428555074764802
- 5“Quiénes Somos,” Ecuador Verifica, http://ecuadorverifica.org/quienes-somos/
- 6Nathaniel Gleicher, “Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior,” Facebook, July 8, 2020, https://about.fb.com/news/2020/07/removing-political-coordinated-inauth…; “Tres exfuncionarios de Rafael Correa crearon Estraterra S.A., vetada ahora por Facebook [Three former Rafael Correa officials created Estraterra S.A., now vetoed by Facebook],” El Universo, July 8, 2020, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2020/07/08/nota/7899543/estraterra-…
- 7“Facebook takes down inauthentic assets targeting multiple Latin American elections,” DFRLab, July 8, 2020, https://medium.com/dfrlab/facebook-takes-down-inauthentic-assets-target…
- 8“Así propaga el correísmo el virus del miedo en redes [This is how Correísmo, the virus of fear on social media, spreads],” Código Vidrio, March 30, 2020, http://www.codigovidrio.com/code/asi-propaga-el-correismo-el-virus-del-…; Martha Roldós, “Morir en Guayaquil [Dying in Guayaquil],” Periodismo de Investigación, April 3, 2020, https://periodismodeinvestigacion.com/2020/04/03/morir-en-guayaquil/.
|Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online?||2.002 3.003|
The 2019 reforms to the Communication Law maintained the Article 6 ban on foreign ownership of media in Ecuador. Financial corporations and their shareholders are also banned from making media investments under Article 312 of the constitution and Article 256 of the Organic Monetary and Financial Code.1 As of August 2020, foreign providers of digital services, including news outlets and social media platforms, must pay value-added tax of 12 percent.2
There is a general mandate to protect net neutrality in both the Culture Act (Article 5) and the Organic Law of Telecommunications (Articles 3, 4, and 66). However, Article 64 of the latter act allows ISPs to establish “tariff plans consisting of one or more services, or for one or more products of a service, in accordance with his or her authorization certificates.” This provision may allow providers to set different speeds for different content, websites, or apps. Nonetheless, there is no evidence that ISPs are operating in a way that might violate net neutrality.
- 1National Assembly Legislative and Oversight Committee, “Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador,” Georgetown Political Database of the Americas, January 31, 2011, http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Ecuador/english08.html.
- 2Servicio de Recaudación de Impuestos, “Registro, Declaración y Pago de IVA por parte de prestadores de servicios digitales no residentes. [Registration, Declaration and Payment of VAT by non-resident digital service providers],” https://www.sri.gob.ec/web/guest/registro-declaracion-y-pago-del-iva-pr…
|Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability?||3.003 4.004|
Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 to reflect a gradual increase in citizen journalism and greater inclusion of Indigenous voices in the digital landscape.
A wide array of media outlets has emerged in Ecuador in the last decade. Since the blocking of websites is not an issue, regular internet users do not need to use virtual private networks (VPNs) or other circumvention tools to access online news. Limited funds for independent media and a history of censorship have contributed to domination by the digital versions of traditional outlets in the online sphere, such as the websites for popular outlets El Comercio and El Universo.1
Nonetheless, small independent digital media outlets like Gk.city and Mil Hojas have become influential because of their investigative reporting. There are some digital media outlets, including blogs, that focus on matters affecting the Indigenous population. Recent initiatives like Lanceros Digitales, a communication collective of the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of the Ecuadorian Amazon (CONAIE), seek to reach communities that are underserved by traditional media and report on their realities using digital platforms.2 Indigenous groups have also amassed significant social media followings. CONAIE’s Facebook page, for instance, had over 270,000 followers as of July 2021.3 Outlets devoted to Indigenous communities still tend to publish content in Spanish, rather than Indigenous languages, which remains an obstacle.
- 1“Top Sites in Ecuador,” Alexa, accessed on July 29, 2021, https://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/EC.
- 2“Lanceros Digitales,” https://confeniae.net/campanas; “Eslendy Grefa from Ecuador: ‘Yes, indigenous women can do this!’,” DW Akademie, January 4, 2021, https://www.dw.com/en/eslendy-grefa-from-ecuador-yes-indigenous-women-c…; “DW Akademie in Ecuador,” DW Akademie, November 6, 2020, https://www.dw.com/en/dw-akademie-in-ecuador/a-18558570
|Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues?||5.005 6.006|
Score Change: The score improved from 4 to 5 because disruptions to connectivity that impacted users’ ability to share content during protests in the previous coverage period did not recur.
There are no legal restrictions around digital advocacy or online communities, and social media has continued to serve as a social-mobilization tool in Ecuador. In recent years, there have been waves of social media activism around women’s rights. Users have turned to Facebook and Twitter to express indignation about femicide and gender-based violence (GBV) and to advocate for the legalization of abortion in specific instances.1 During 2019 debates in the National Assembly about the decriminalization of abortion in cases of rape, for instance, the use of the hashtag #AbortoPorViolacion (abortion in case of rape) proliferated on social media. Though decriminalization was initially voted down, the Constitutional Court eventually ruled in its favor for pregnancies resulting from rape in April 2021.2
Connectivity disruptions have prevented information sharing during protests in the past. Users were briefly prevented from sharing photographs, images, and audio recordings via WhatsApp and Facebook during October 2019 demonstrations because of disruptions (see A3 and B1). Members of the press also found themselves attacked by police while covering the same protests.3 However, Ecuadorians were ultimately able to use Twitter and Facebook extensively to express opinions and call for action.
- 1#JusticiaPorPaola #JusticiaDeGénero, January 28, 2020, https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=159276498821939; #Justiciaparapaola https://twitter.com/hashtag/justiciaparapaola?lang=en; Gabriela Barzallo, “Todos Somos Martha [We are all Martha]: Ecuadorians Protest Gender Violence, Femicide, and Xenophobia,” Latin Dispatch, March 27, 2019, https://latindispatch.com/2019/03/27/todos-somos-martha-ecuadorians-pro…
- 2“Voting on decriminalization of abortion in Ecuador suspended,” Peoples Dispatch, August 3, 2019, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/08/03/voting-on-decriminalization-of-a…; “Activists vow to continue struggle as bid to decriminalize abortion in cases of rape fails in Ecuador,” Peoples Dispatch, September 19, 2019, https://peoplesdispatch.org/2019/09/19/activists-vow-to-continue-strugg…; “Ecuador: Criminalizing Abortion Affects Rights, Health,” Human Rights Watch, July 14, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/07/14/ecuador-criminalizing-abortion-affe…
- 3“Policías agreden a equipo periodístico de El Comercio y Primicias [Police attacks the journalistic team of El Comercio and Primicias],” La República, October 3, 2019, https://www.larepublica.ec/blog/sociedad/2019/10/03/policia-agrede-a-eq…; “FUNDAMEDIOS condena la violencia policial en contra de al menos 16 comunicadores durante el paro nacional [FUNDAMEDIOS condemns police violence against at least 16 journalists during the national strike],” Fundamedios, October 4, 2019, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/fundamedios-condena-la-violencia….
|Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence?||3.003 6.006|
The Ecuadorian legal framework has undergone significant change since the Correa era that have rendered it more favorable to online freedom of expression. The constitution grants “universal access to information technologies and communication” (Article 16.2) and confers the ability to exercise one’s right to communication, information, and freedom of expression (Article 384).
Years of debate on the categorization of communication media as a public service finally ended in January 2021. The National Assembly established this definition in December 2015 by amending Article 384 of the 2013 Communication Law to categorize communication as a public service. The move drew criticism for its potential to undermine freedom of expression and open the way for broad media regulation.1 Though the Constitutional Court nullified the amendments in August 2018, 2 reforms to Article 5 in 2019 maintained the media’s public-service role.3 Moreno sent the National Assembly a partial reform to that article in January 2019, removing the public-service characterization and reinstating communication as a right.4
In December 2020, the National Assembly approved a reform to Article 5 limiting the definition of communication media to radio, television, and press, and their associated internet domains. Then president Moreno lodged a partial objection the following month, proposing one instead that could be applied to digital platforms—and even to journalists’ personal social media accounts.5 In January 2021, the National Assembly ratified its reforms over the president’s objections.6 Though this debate has been resolved, discussions of the legal framework for media and free expression are bound to continue under President Lasso. Upon his election, Lasso announced a plan to send a new communications bill to legislators named the “Freedom of the Press Law.”7
Several other restrictive provisions contained in the 2013 Communication Law were reformed in February 2019.8 Important changes included the elimination of the mandatory media code of conduct (Article 10) and the prohibition on media lynching that was used to prevent journalists from investigating corruption. Furthermore, SUPERCOM, which oversaw compliance, was eliminated. However, the office of the audience ombudsman—an important resource to which citizens appealed when discriminatory content was published—was disbanded under these reforms.9 A proposal to reform the Organic Law on Transparency and Access to Public Information was presented to the National Assembly that year. It aimed to limit the scope of “reserved information” that had been used to curtail access to public information in the past, though it was not approved by the outgoing legislature during the coverage period.10
- 1John Otis, “How Ecuador's plans to make communications a public service is threat to free press,” Committee to Protect Journalists, January 20, 2015, https://cpj.org/blog/2015/01/how-ecuadors-plans-to-make-communications-….
- 2“La comunicación dejó de ser un servicio público en Ecuador [Communication stopped being a public service in Ecuador],” El Telégrafo, August 1, 2018, https://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/politica/3/enmiendas-corte-cons…
- 3“Comunicación como servicio público no se eliminó de proyecto de Ley Orgánica de Comunicación [Communication as a public service was not removed from the Organic Communication Law project],” El Universo, January 15, 2019, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2019/01/15/nota/7139510/comunicacio…
- 4“Asamblea debatirá en marzo la comunicación como servicio público [National Assembly will discuss in March communication as a public service],” El Telégrafo, February 16, 2019, https://www.eltelegrafo.com.ec/noticias/politica/3/asamblea-debatira-co….
- 5Roger Velez, “Ejecutivo objeta reforma a Ley de Comunicación y apunta a plataformas digitales [Executive objects to reform of the Communication Law and points to digital platforms],” El Comercio, January 5, 2021, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ejecutivo-objeta-reforma-ley-comu…
- 6Roger Velez, “La Asamblea Nacional se ratifica en reforma a Ley de Comunicación y rechaza regular medios digitales [The National Assembly ratifies the reform of the Communication Law and rejects the regulation of digital media],” El Comercio, January 26, 2021, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/asamblea-ratifica-reforma-ley-com…
- 7“Presidente electo de Ecuador anunció que impulsará nueva Ley de Comunicación [President-elect of Ecuador announced that he will promote a new Communication Law],” OBSERVACOM, May 13, 2021, https://www.observacom.org/presidente-electo-de-ecuador-anuncio-que-imp…
- 8National Assembly of Ecuador, “Ley Orgánica Reformatoria a la ley Orgánica de Comunicación [Amendment of the Organic Law of Communication],” February 20, 2019, .
- 9Ana Cristina Basantes, “Claves para entender las reformas a la Ley Orgánica de Comunicación en Ecuador [Key Points to Understand the Reforms of the Organic Law of Communication in Ecuador],” GK, February 18, 2019, https://gk.city/contexto/claves-para-entender-reformas-ley-comunicacion…
- 10“Defensoría del Pueblo recibirá aportes de la ciudadanía al anteproyecto de la LOTAIP [Ombudsman’s office will receive citizen’s contributons on the LOTAIP draft],” Defensoría del Pueblo Ecuador, November 14, 2019, https://www.dpe.gob.ec/defensoria-del-pueblo-recibira-aportes-de-la-ciu…
|Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||2.002 4.004|
While former president Moreno reformed legislation that penalized various online activities, penal-code provisions that affect online speech remain. Legislators considered even stricter reforms during the coverage period, though President Lasso successfully halted some of those efforts after taking office.
Penal-code changes that entered into force in August 2014 eliminated criminal charges for insult but retained them for slander and libel.1 Article 396 of the penal code notably punishes expressions that “discredit or dishonor” with imprisonment of 15 to 30 days (see C3). Article 179 restricts protections for whistleblowers by establishing a prison sentence of six months to one year for any person “who, by virtue of [their] state or office, employment, profession, or art, has knowledge of a secret whose divulgement might cause harm to another and reveals it.” The article makes no exceptions for revealing information in the public interest. Article 229 places further restrictions on divulging information by banning the revelation of registered information, databases, or archives through electronic systems in a way that violates another’s intimacy or privacy, with no exceptions for whistleblowers or journalists. Article 307 establishes a penalty of five to seven years in prison for creating economic panic by “publishing, spreading, or divulging false news that causes harm to the national economy in order to alter the prices of goods.”
A law passed by the National Assembly during the coverage period sought to expand some of the problematic articles in the penal code and introduce others into the legal framework.2 In May 2021, a majority of legislators approved the Law to Prevent and Combat Digital Sexual Violence and Strengthen the Fight against Computer Crimes.3 Though the bill aimed to protect women and children from online gender-based violence, it quickly raised alarms for civil society and media organizations who viewed multiple provisions as threats to free speech and uninhibited reporting.4 Articles 11 and 16 of the Digital Violence Law—which would expand the already-restrictive Articles 179 and 396 of the penal code, respectively—were of particular concern. The former would establish heightened penalties of one to three years for those found guilty of “divulging secrets” in the form of personal digital content, such as messages, photographs, or videos.5 Like the existing provision, this proposed reform did not contain a public-interest exception.6 The proposed reform to Article 396 would extend existing penalties for “expressions that discredit or dishonor” to those expressed over information and communication technologies.7
President Lasso partially vetoed the bill in June 2021 and the National Assembly agreed with many of his objections in July.8 Consequently, some of the more problematic provisions did not ultimately become codified in law. A public-interest exception was added, for instance, to Article 179 of the penal code. However, Article 396 retained the proposed penalties for digitally discrediting or dishonoring others.9
- 1Ministry of Justice, Human Rights, and Cults, “Código Orgánico Integral Penal [Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code],” 2014, http://www.oas.org/juridico/PDFs/mesicic5_ecu_ane_con_judi_c%C3%B3d_org…
- 2For more information on the background and development of the law, see: “Qué es la violencia sexual digital y el ciberacoso, conductas que se tipifican en proyecto de ley por abordar [What is digital sexual violence and cyberbullying, behaviors that are typified in the bill to be addressed],” El Universo, November 10, 2020. https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2020/11/10/nota/8043397/propuesta-n…; Ana Belén Rosero, “Asamblea tramita proyecto de ley para sancionar la violencia sexual digital [Assembly admits bill to sanction digital sexual violence],” El Comercio, October 19, 2020, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/asamblea-ley-violencia-sexual-dig…; “Justicia unifica proyectos en materia de prevención del acoso digital y de tipificación de delitos de sexting y hostigamiento [Justice unifies projects on the prevention of digital harassment and the definition of crimes of sexting and harassment],” National Assembly, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/noticia/70645-justicia-unifica-p…; “Ecuador se ubica a la vanguardia en la lucha contra la violencia sexual digital y los delitos informáticos [Ecuador is at the forefront in the fight against digital sexual violence and cybercrime],” National Assembly, May 6, 2021, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/noticia/71773-ecuador-se-ubica-l…
- 3“Ecuadorian congress passes ‘digital violence’ bill that threatens press freedom,” Committee to Protect Journalists, May 11, 2021, https://cpj.org/2021/05/ecuadorian-congress-passes-digital-violence-bil…
- 4Martina Rapido Ragozzino and Deborah Brown, “Tackling Digital Violence in Ecuador Shouldn’t Endanger Free Speech,” Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/08/tackling-digital-violence-ecuador-s…
- 5Asamblea Nacional, Proyecto De Ley Orgánica Reformatoria Del Código Orgánico Integral Penal Para Prevenir Y Combatir La Violencia Sexual Digital Y Fortalecer La Lucha Contra Los Delitos Informáticos [Draft organic law reformation of the comprehensive organic criminal code to prevent and combat digital sexual violence and strengthen the fight against computer crime], May 10, 2021, https://www.fielweb.com/App_Themes/InformacionInteres/Nuevo_aprobado_Vi…
- 6Martina Rapido Ragozzino and Deborah Brown, “Tackling Digital Violence in Ecuador Shouldn’t Endanger Free Speech,” Human Rights Watch, June 8, 2021, https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/06/08/tackling-digital-violence-ecuador-s…
- 7“Reformas al COIP por violencia sexual digital toparon temas sobre libertad de expresión [Reforms to the COIP for digital sexual violence raised issues on freedom of expression],” El Universo, May 7, 2021, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/politica/reformas-al-coip-por-viole…
- 8“Asamblea Nacional tramita reformas al COIP sobre violencia sexual digital [National Assembly processes reforms to the COIP on digital sexual violence],” El Universo, July 9, 2021, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/politica/asamblea-nacional-tramita-…; “Presidente Guillermo Lasso veta parcialmente proyecto de ley contra la violencia sexual digital y lucha contra delitos informáticos [President Guillermo Lasso partially vetoes bill against digital sexual violence and the fight against cybercrime],” El Universal, June 10, 2021, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/politica/presidente-guillermo-lasso…
- 9“El trámite de Ley contra Violencia Digital terminó en la Asamblea y se mantienen delitos contra la honra [The process of the Law against Digital Violence ended in the Assembly and crimes against honor remain],” El Comercio, July 9, 2021, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/politica/tramite-ley-violencia-di…
|Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards?||3.003 6.006|
Lawsuits threatening social media users and online journalists have lessened in recent years and are regularly withdrawn or dismissed.1 Charges for critical online speech were levelled against one journalist during the coverage period, however, and a prominent case from 2019 still remains outstanding.
In October 2020, television host Juan Sarmiento received a 10-day prison term and a $100 fine, and was ordered to offer a public apology, over a criminal complaint filed by Napo provincial governor Patricio Espíndola. Espíndola alleged that Sarmiento caused emotional and moral damage and harmed his dignity via a Facebook post where he criticized Espíndola’s management of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as through episodes of Tendencia Digital, a news program Sarmiento hosted and directed that was both posted on Facebook and run on television.2 Espíndola called for a 15– to 30-day sentence, the maximum allowed under Article 396 of the penal code (see C2).3 Sarmiento appealed in October, but his appeal was rejected in November. Several weeks later, Sarmiento traveled to Peru under the protection of a program for at-risk journalists. He was detained upon his return to Ecuador in February 2021 but was released the next day because his arrest warrant had already expired.4
In April 2019, Ecuadorian police arrested Ola Bini, a Swedish digital security expert with links to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and placed him under investigation for “alleged participation in attacks against the integrity of computer systems.”5 Based on the lack of incriminating information, human rights defenders said that his arrest was arbitrary.6 The Ecuadorian government attributed his detention to an alleged scheme to blackmail then president Moreno over Ecuador’s disassociation from Assange,7 as Bini had visited Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy in London over 10 times.8 Bini was arrested on the same day that, after more than six years, Ecuador revoked Assange’s asylum and British authorities removed him from the embassy.9 Moreno asserted that Assange was establishing a spying center within the embassy from which he was interfering with the democratic stability of several countries, including Ecuador.10 Bini was released from detention in June 2019, after the Provincial Court of Pichincha granted his lawyers’ request for habeas corpus.11 As of January 2021, however, his case was still in a preliminary status; he remained barred from leaving Ecuador and was required to appear at the prosecutor’s office weekly.12
- 1“Actualización: Jueza Yadira Proaño archivó denuncia contra Fernando Villavicencio [Update: Judge Yadira Proaño filed a complaint against Fernando Villavicencio],” Fundamedios, October 22, 2020, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/actualizacion-jueza-yadira-proan…; “Asambleísta Jimmy Candell retira denuncia contra Luis Eduardo Vivanco, periodista de La Posta, a quien acusaba de haber afectado su honra [Assemblyman Jimmy Candell withdraws complaint against Luis Eduardo Vivanco, a journalist from La Posta, whom he accused of having affected his honor],” El Universo, January 19, 2021, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2021/01/19/nota/9594553/asambleista…
- 2Ecuadorian journalist Juan Sarmiento sentenced to prison for ‘discrediting’ local official,” Committee to Protect Journalists, November 20, 2020, https://cpj.org/2020/11/ecuadorean-journalist-juan-sarmiento-sentenced-…
- 3“Gobernador de Napo presenta demanda contra periodista por daño moral [Governor of Napo files lawsuit against journalist for non-pecuniary damage,” Fundamedios, September 28, 2020, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/gobernador-napo-demanda-periodis…; Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression: Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2020, vol.2, March 30, 2021, http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/annual/2020/Chapters/rele-en.PDF
- 4“Periodista Juan Sarmiento fue apresado por la Policía Nacional del Ecuador[Journalist Juan Sarmiento was arrested by the Ecuadorian National Police],” Fundamedios, February 6, 2021, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/periodista-apresado-ecuador/; “Periodista Juan Sarmiento quedó libre tras prescripción de sentencia [Journalist Juan Sarmiento was released after prescription of sentence],” Fundamedios, February 7, 2021, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/periodista-libertad-prescripcion…
- 5“Ciudadano sueco fue procesado por presunto ataque a la integridad de sistemas informáticos [Swedish citizen processed by alleged attack on integrity of computer systems],” Fiscalía General del Estado, April 13, 2019, https://www.fiscalia.gob.ec/ciudadano-sueco-fue-procesado-por-presunto-….
- 6David Kaye, @davidakaye, “nothing in this story connects @olabini to any crime. digital privacy advocate/expert, expressed support for WL, etc - for sure. but the govt of #Ecuador must demonstrate more than that or this looks like an arbitrary detention,” April 14, 2019, https://twitter.com/davidakaye/status/1117489081397547008.
- 7José María León Cabrera, “Ecuador Detains a Friend of Assange. Critics Say It’s Guilt by Association,” The New York Times, April 21, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/21/world/americas/ecuador-ola-bini-assa….
- 8Joshua Goodman and Frank Bajak, “Who Is Ola Bini? Swedish Developer Who Visited Assange Arrested In Ecuador,” Talking Points Memo, April 13, 2019, https://talkingpointsmemo.com/news/who-is-ola-bini-swedish-programmer-w…
- 9Patrick Wintour, “Assange tried to use embassy as 'centre for spying', says Ecuador's Moreno,” The Guardian, April 14, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/media/2019/apr/14/assange-tried-to-use-emba….
- 10Nicholas Casey and Jo Becker, “As Ecuador Harbored Assange, It Was Subjected to Threats and Leaks,” The New York Times, April 12, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/world/europe/ecuador-assange-wikilea….
- 11“Justicia de Ecuador ordena liberar a informático sueco vinculado con Assange [Justice of Ecuador orders release of Swedish computer specialist linked to Assange],” El Comercio, June 20, 2019, https://elcomercio.pe/mundo/actualidad/ecuador-justicia-ecuador-deja-li….
- 12Vincent Ricci, “Swedish friend of Assange fights to clear his name in Ecuador,” Al Jazeera, January 4, 2021, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/4/swedish-friend-of-assange-fight….
|Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption?||3.003 4.004|
Neither anonymous nor encrypted communications are banned in Ecuador, and users of encryption are not subject to turn over their encryption keys without a court mandate. The recent reforms of the Communication Law eliminated requirements for users to register with their name and government identification number to make comments in digital forums and news sites.1
- 1“Normas deontológicas, eliminadas de la Ley de Comunicación [Deontological standards, removed from the Communication Law],” El Universo, December 3, 2018, https://www.eluniverso.com/noticias/2018/12/03/nota/7081764/normas-deon….
- 2“Freedom of Expression, Encryption and Anonymity, Civil Society and Private Sector Perceptions,” Derechos Digitales, 2015, https://www.derechosdigitales.org/wp-content/uploads/freedom-of-express….
- 3Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Reglamento Abonados Servicios Telecomunicaciones y Valor Agregado, Art. 29.9 [Telecommunication Services Subscribers and Aggregated Value Regulations, Article 29.9],” July 20, 2012, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/reglamento-para-l….
|Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy?||2.002 6.006|
Concerns for internet users’ privacy emerged during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and continued into the following coverage period.
The government authorized and deployed a number of location-tracking platforms and technologies during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in an apparent effort to monitor the spread of the coronavirus. Each one sparked major concern from civil society organizations, who criticized the lack of transparency around the storage and use of data, the extreme potential for privacy violations, the likelihood of disproportionate and discriminate use, and the unchecked invasiveness of the apps and technologies in question.1 These concerns were raised, for instance, when then interior minister María Paula Romo announced in March 2020 that Moreno’s state-of-emergency decree authorized the government to deploy location-tracking technology, via satellite and mobile phones, on those who were under “a state of sanitary quarantine and/or compulsory isolation.”2 Authorities did not disclose how the data would be processed, how long data would be stored, and what other purposes data could be used for, if any.3
The government released the Salud EC App that same month, which allowed users to report COVID-19 symptoms. Digital rights activists were troubled by its excessive permission requests, which required users to allow access to read, modify, and delete stored content, including multimedia files.4 Shortly thereafter, MINTEL presented its tracking platform, which integrates data from tracking technology and Salud EC, as well as from mobile service providers and the national emergency response system, ECU911. Critics noted that users lacked clear legal protections and warned that the platform could be used in ways that violate users’ privacy.5 In April 2020, Romo acknowledged the invasiveness of GPS tracking in a television interview. She stated that the authorities were working on an app that would align with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) of the European Union.6 In September 2020, Romo responded to a question regarding the alleged use of telephone interception equipment provided by G12 Impact, Verint Web Intelligence, and Plataforma Trapdoor by evasively stating that tracking equipment was only being used by the National Police in criminal investigations with judicial authorization.7
Additional developments unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic about the government’s access to surveillance equipment surfaced during the coverage period. In December 2020, Citizen Lab included Ecuador in a list of 25 countries where governments were likely customers of surveillance company Circles. Clients can monitor calls, text messages, and mobile-phone geolocation by exploiting weaknesses in mobile telecommunications infrastructure.8
Prior to recent privacy concerns, the Ecuadorian government had a history of surveilling its citizens by means of communications technology. Created in 2009, the National Secretariat of Intelligence (SENAIN) oversaw the production of “strategic SIGINT [signals intelligence] for the integral security of the state, society and democracy.” Most of its budget was allocated to “special expenses for communications and counterintelligence.”9 Leaked Correa-era documents exposed compelling evidence that the government engaged in surveillance of a wide range of individuals, including illegal spying on politicians, journalists, and activists.10 Moreno eliminated SENAIN in September 2018 and created the Strategic Intelligence Center (CIES).11 Despite SENAIN’s closure, CIES received all its functions, competences, attributions, rights, obligations, resources, and budget.12
The Ecuadorian intelligence apparatus has access to extensive surveillance capabilities. An April 2019 New York Times investigation showed that ECU911 was a central piece of a massive surveillance system under Correa.13 The system began to be developed in 2011 by Chinese state-owned firm CEIEC, as well as Huawei. As of January 2021, there were around 4,779 cameras deployed across the country.14 These cameras transmit live to ECU911 headquarters and a direct mirror reportedly exists at CIES offices.15 There have also been reports about the application of facial recognition technology in certain places such as airports.16
The efficacy of the CIES’s surveillance capabilities were questioned in October 2019, when government officials and legislators agreed that the body had failed to provide strategic intelligence to prevent and counteract that month’s protests. CIES had reportedly based their intelligence assessment on disinformation circulated through social media, rather than on actual intelligence work. In response to CIES’s perceived shortcomings, a bill was proposed that would require all entities part of the country’s intelligence apparatus to continually share information with CIES.17 The bill was never officially considered by the National Assembly that ended its term in May 2021.
- 1“Ecuador: Las tecnologías de vigilancia en contexto de pandemia no deben poner en riesgo los derechos humanos [Ecuador: Surveillance technologies in the context of a pandemic must not place human rights at risk],” Asociación para el Progreso de las Comunicaciones y Derechos Digitales, March 16, 2020, https://www.apc.org/es/pubs/ecuador-las-tecnologias-de-vigilancia-en-co…; “Ecuador: Privacy at Risk with Covid-19 Surveillance,” Human Rights Watch, July 1, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/01/ecuador-privacy-risk-covid-19-surve…
- 2“Gobierno autoriza rastreo satelital para mejorar vigilancia epidemiológica [Government authorizes satellite tracking to improve epidemiological surveillance],” EcuadorTV, March 17, 2020, https://www.ecuadortv.ec/noticias/covid-19/romo-vigilancia-epidemiologi…-.
- 3Interview with Alfredo Velazco, from Usuarios Digitales, conducted on May 26, 2020. Another digital rights activist, who requested anonymity, had made similar comments in a previous interview on May 25, 2020.
- 4Usuarios Digitales, @usuariodigital, “#Ecuador #CoronaVirus Se lanza #AppSaludEc cuyo objetivo es conocer el estado de salud, vía @Lenin - #Covid_19ec #COVID19ec #Covid19Ecuador,” March 25, 2020, https://twitter.com/usuariosdigital/status/1242852197999751177.
- 5“Ecuador: Privacy at Risk with Covid-19 Surveillance,” Human Rights Watch, July 1, 2020, https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/07/01/ecuador-privacy-risk-covid-19-surve….
- 6Usuarios Digitales, @usuariodigital, “@mariapaularomo @MinGobiernoEc considera el tracking de GPS invasivo, inicia explicación de desarrollo de herramienta con bluetooth con estándares de la protección de datos europea #RGPD para que persona sepa con quien se ha contactado [Embbeded video interview with Minister Romo],” April 19, 2020, https://twitter.com/usuariosdigital/status/1251930331768393730.
- 7Daniel Romero, “Ministra María Paula Romo prepara respuesta sobre uso de equipos para interceptar Comunicaciones. [Minister María Paula Romo prepares a response on the use of equipment to intercept communications],” El Comercio, September 6, 2020. https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ministra-romo-respuesta-equipos-c….; Christopher Bing, Joel Schectman, and Jack Stubbs, “Cyber-intel firms pitch governments on spy tools to trace coronavirus,” Reuters, April 28, 2020, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-spy-specialreport…
- 8Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Siddharth Prakash Rao, Siena Anstis, and Ron Deibert. Citizen Lab. Running in CirclesUncovering the Clients of Cyberespionage Firm Circles. December 1, 2020. https://citizenlab.ca/2020/12/running-in-circles-uncovering-the-clients…
- 9National Intelligence Secretariat of Ecuador, “Programación Anual de la Política Pública [Annual Program for Public Policy],” February 11, 2015, https://web.archive.org/web/20160327011719/http:/www.inteligencia.gob.e….
- 10Roberto Aguilar, “La policía política de la Senain vigila a civiles y grupos sociales [The political police of the Senain monitors civilians and social groups],” Ecuador en Vivo, September 20, 2017, http://www.ecuadorenvivo.com/politica/24-politica/66136-la-policia-poli…; “Las perspectivas del cambio en los servicios de inteligencia [Perspectives Of Change In Intelligence Services],” Plan V, October 1, 2018, https://www.planv.com.ec/historias/politica/perspectivas-del-cambio-ser….
- 11Center for Strategic Intelligence (CIES), “Decreto de creación del Centro de Inteligencia Estratégica [Decree for creation of the Center for Strategic Intelligence],” September 21, 2018, https://www.cies.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Decreto-de-creaci%C3….
- 12National Intelligence Secretariat of Ecuador, “Decreto de creación del Centro de Inteligencia Estratégica [Decree for creation of the Center for Strategic Intelligence],” September 21, 2018, https://www.cies.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/Decreto-de-creaci%C3….
- 13Paul Mozur, Jonah M. Kessel, and Melissa Chan, “Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State,” The New York Times, April 24, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/24/technology/ecuador-surveillance-came….
- 14“Cámaras de Videovigilancia,” Servicio integrado de seguridad ECU911, accessed March 4, 2021, https://web.archive.org/web/20210117000706/https://www.ecu911.gob.ec/ca…
- 15“How China Trains the World’s Autocrats to Surveil Their People | NYT,” The New York Times (Youtube Channel), April 24, 2019, https://youtu.be/p8WAIFatAqw.
- 16Jun Mai, “Ecuador is fighting crime using Chinese surveillance technology,” South China Morning Post, January 22, 2018, https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2129912/ecuad….
- 17“Ley que fortalece la Inteligencia, represada un año en la Asamblea [Law that strengthens Intelligence, repressed one year in the Assembly],” El Comercio, October 28, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/ley-inteligencia-represada-asambl….
|Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy?||4.004 6.006|
Under the rules of the Organic Law of Telecommunications, ISPs are obliged by ARCOTEL to “provide technical, economic, financial, legal documents, and in general, any form or request for information” and to “allow inspections to facilities and systems.”1 In September 2018, ARCOTEL approved a technical standard for the registration of subscribers or customers of telecommunications services and broadcasting services. This technical norm establishes that services providers must protect personal data in their databases and cannot use such data for any other purpose without explicit informed consent from the customer.2
In September 2019, after a large data breach (see C8), the government hastily introduced a draft of the Organic Law on Personal Data Protection to the National Assembly. The draft was based on two years’ worth of work by government agencies in consultation with civil society organizations.3 The proposed legislation established sanctions on unauthorized use of personal data by both public and private entities and forbade the use of personal data for anything that exceeds the original purpose.4 The National Assembly started to debate the bill in February 2021.5
The bill was approved in May 2021.6 The new law creates an independent body for data protection, the Superintendency for the Protection of Personal Data, and is seen as potentially the most advanced data protection legislation in the region.
Still, judges can compel ISPs by means of a court order to provide communication data to law enforcement agencies. Content intercepted via internet surveillance is admissible in court and can be used to convict defendants under Articles 476 and 528 of the criminal code. Since 2015, the Subsystem for Interception of Communications or Computer Data (SICOM) of the attorney general’s office allows interception of voice calls and short-message service (SMS) texts of criminal suspects.7
Mobile operators are required to implement technology that would automatically provide the physical location of mobile phone users for emergency purposes, within an accuracy range of 50 meters.8
- 1Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Decreto Ejecutivo 864 [Executive Decree 864],” January 25, 2016, https://www.telecomunicaciones.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/Reglam….
- 2Telecommunications Regulatory and Control Agency (ARCOTEL), “Norma Técnica para el empadronamiento de abonados, suscriptores y clientes de servicios de telecomunicaciones y servicios de radiodifusión por suscripción [Technical standards for the registration of subscribers and customers of Telecom services and broadcast services by subscription],” 2018, https://www.arcotel.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Prop-norma-empadr….
- 3National Assembly of Ecuador, “Funcionarios de Gobierno Sustentan Proyecto de Ley Orgánica de Protección de Datos Personales [Government Officials Support Draft Organic Law on Protection of Personal Data],” November 13, 2019, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/noticia/64164-funcionarios-de-go…; “Ecuador fast-tracks data privacy law after massive breach,” Financial Times, September 20, 2019, https://www.ft.com/content/35f9aea0-dbb0-11e9-8f9b-77216ebe1f17; Alexander Fetani, “Ecuador: Data protection bill ‘resembles the GDPR in several aspects’,” One Trust Data Guidance, September 26, 2019, https://www.dataguidance.com/ecuador-data-protection-bill-resembles-the….
- 4National Assembly of Ecuador, “Proyecto de Ley Orgánica de Protección de Datos Personales - Lenín Moreno, Presidente de la República / T379637 [Organic Law Project on Protection of Personal Data - Lenín Moreno, President of the Republic / T379637],” March 8, 2020, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/sites/default/files/private/asamble….
- 5National Assembly of Ecuador, “Ley de Datos Personales continuó con el debate en el pleno de la legislatura [Personal Data Law continued with the debate in the plenary session of the legislature],” February 11, 2021, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/noticia/70647-ley-de-datos-perso…
- 6National Assembly of Ecuador, “Pleno aprueba proyecto de Ley de Protección de Datos Personales [Plenary approves draft Personal Data Protection Law],” May 10, 2021, https://www.asambleanacional.gob.ec/es/noticia/71805-pleno-aprueba-proy…
- 7“La interceptación de llamadas se hace solo bajo la autorización de un juez [Call interception is done only under the authorization of a judge],” Fiscalía General del Estado, July 21, 2015, https://www.fiscalia.gob.ec/la-interceptacion-de-llamadas-se-hace-solo-…
- 8Integrated Security Service ECU911, “Informe de Gestión Anual 2015 [Annual Management Report 2015],” February 19, 2016, https://issuu.com/ecu911/docs/informe_de_gestion2015; Integrated Security Service ECU911, “Localizador Móvil [Mobile Locator],” [n. d.], https://www.ecu911.gob.ec/localizador-mobil/.
|Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities?||2.002 5.005|
Online journalists and activists have generally experienced lower levels of intimidation in recent years. However, threats to physical safety against critical users and journalists for online platforms persist, including some leveled by those with connections to powerful government officials.
Explosives have been used to target digital journalists during both this coverage period and the one before. In December 2020, two unlit sticks of dynamite were found in the home of MPNoticias journalist Mario Pinto. Though it is unclear whether the dynamite, which was ready to detonate should the fuse have been lit, was placed in the home in retaliation for Pinto’s coverage, he has been recognized as one of the first journalists in the area to shed light on a local criminal group engaged in the smuggling of drugs and people.1 In February 2020, the founder of Facebook channel VA Televisión, Víctor Aguirre, was targeted by an explosive device that detonated in his home. He had been critical of the mayor of the city of Naranjal, who had threatened Aguirre with “bodily harm” after he reported on a clash between protesters and the mayor in October 2019.2 Aguirre and his wife were home during the attack but were uninjured.
Intimidation against critical voices continued during the coverage period. In August 2020, cartoonist Xavier “Bonil” Bonilla tweeted a cartoon he had drawn for a newspaper caricaturing Jacobo Bucaram Pulley, the son of former president Abdalá Bucaram. Jacobo Bucaram had been evading justice regarding alleged corruption in the acquisition and sale of medical supplies, which Bonilla portrayed in his cartoon, alongside the text “Where is Jacobo?” Jacobo Bucaram tweeted a response to Bonilla that included profanity and threat that the cartoonist would have to defend himself.3
- 1“Ecuador: ponen explosivos en casa de periodista [Ecuador: they put explosives in a journalist's house],” International Federation of Journalists, December 15, 2020, https://www.ifj.org/media-centre/news/detail/category/human-rights/arti…
- 2“Explosive device detonated at home of journalist in Ecuador,” Committee to Protect Journalists, February 12, 2020, https://cpj.org/2020/02/explosive-device-detonated-at-home-of-journalis….
- 3“FUNDAMEDIOS insta a las autoridades a proteger a Bonil frente a las amenazas de un prófugo acusado de hechos delictivos [FUNDAMEDIOS urges the authorities to protect Bonil from the threats of a fugitive accused of criminal acts],” Fundamedios, August 9, 2020, https://www.fundamedios.org.ec/alertas/jacobobucaram-amenaza-bonil-cari…; Annual Report of the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression: Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, 2020, vol.2, March 30, 2021, http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/annual/2020/Chapters/rele-en.PDF
|Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack?||1.001 3.003|
Technical attacks have targeted media websites in recent years, and official accounts have been hacked in the recent past.1 In September 2019, investigative news outlet Periodismo de Investigación was the victim of one that took them offline and may have been related to a report about corruption by government figures. Their website became inaccessible and displayed a phishing alert.2
Accounts of individual users and government institutions in Ecuador are susceptible to hacking. In July 2020, the Instagram accounts of three female journalists were hacked by someone who changed their passwords, deleted their photographs and videos, and uploaded unrelated pictures in their place. The uploaded pictures were the same for all the three accounts.3 No further information about these incidents was known by the end of the coverage period. In August 2019, the Twitter accounts of the Vice Ministry for Export and Investment Promotion (PRO ECUADOR) and the armed forces were hacked. According to the ministry, the PRO ECUADOR account posted content meant to destabilize the Moreno administration.4
Attacks against financial institutions and data-analytics companies have also posed a threat to individuals’ personal information in recent years. In February 2021, it was reported that 80 GB of sensitive information relating to account holders from Ecuadorian bank Banco Pichincha had been stolen.5 An online actor named Hotarus Corp. allegedly requested a ransom of $30 million in bitcoin to keep them from exposing sensitive information about Banco Pichincha’s clients. Despite these reports, the bank denied that its systems had been compromised.6 In September 2019, it was revealed that the majority of Ecuadorians had their personal information exposed on the server of a data-analytics company. The government announced that they would launch an investigation.7 Shortly thereafter, the office of the company, Novaestrat, was raided; the company and its leadership were placed under investigation for infringing on privacy and spreading personal data, as well as to determine how they had procured the data.8 No results from the investigation had been made public as of June 2021.
- 1Usuarios Digitales, @usuariosdigital, “#AlertaDigitalEC Portal http://periodismodeinvestigacion.com habría sufrido un 5to ataque en 2 años, según reporta su director @VillaFernando_ en el contexto de publicaciones contra corrupción que involucran personajes del gobierno,” September 3, 2019, https://twitter.com/usuariosdigital/status/1168891108031651841; “Ministerio de Producción dice que recuperó la cuenta de Twitter de Pro Ecuador que fue hackeada [Ministry of Production says it recovered the Pro Ecuador Twitter account that was hacked],” El Comercio, August 5, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/hackeo-cuenta-twitter-proecuador-….
- 2Usuarios Digitales, @usuariosdigital, “#AlertaDigitalEC Portal http://periodismodeinvestigacion.com habría sufrido un 5to ataque en 2 años, según reporta su director @VillaFernando_ en el contexto de publicaciones contra corrupción que involucran personajes del gobierno,” September 3, 2019, https://twitter.com/usuariosdigital/status/1168891108031651841.
- 3Liz Valarezo Roldán, @lizvalarezo, July 14, 2020. https://twitter.com/lizvalarezo/status/1283140973627924482
- 4“Ministerio de Producción dice que recuperó la cuenta de Twitter de Pro Ecuador que fue hackeada [Ministry of Production says it recovered the Pro Ecuador Twitter account that was hacked],” El Comercio, August 5, 2019, https://www.elcomercio.com/actualidad/hackeo-cuenta-twitter-proecuador-….
- 5“Banco Pichincha niega exposición de información sensible de sus clientes [Banco Pichincha denies exposure of sensitive customer information],” GK, February 10, 2021, https://gk.city/2021/02/10/informacion-confidencial-banco-pichincha/
- 6Betssy Santistevan, “Hacker habría pedido rescate en bitcoin a banco de Ecuador tras robar 80 GB de información [Hacker would have requested a ransom in bitcoin from Ecuador's bank after stealing 80 GB of information],” Criptonoticias, https://www.criptonoticias.com/seguridad-bitcoin/hacker-habria-pedido-r…; Carolina Farfán, “Banco Pichincha se pronuncia por filtración de datos de sus clientes [Banco Pichincha speaks out due to the leakage of its clients' data],” Vistazo, February 19, 2021, https://www.vistazo.com/seccion/actualidad-nacional/banco-pichincha-se-…
- 7Catalin Cimpanu, “Database leaks data on most of Ecuador’s citizens, including 6.7 million children,” ZeroDayNet, September 16, 2019, https://www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/database-leaks-data-on-most-of…; Catalin Cimpanu, “Arrest made in Ecuador’s massive databreach,” ZeroDayNet, September 17, 2019, https://www.zdnet.com/article/arrest-made-in-ecuadors-massive-data-brea….
- 8Catalin Cimpanu, “Arrest made in Ecuador’s massive databreach,” ZeroDayNet, September 17, 2019, https://www.zdnet.com/article/arrest-made-in-ecuadors-massive-data-brea….
See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.See More
Global Freedom Score71 100 free
Internet Freedom Score62 100 partly free
Freedom in the World StatusPartly Free