Partly Free
A Obstacles to Access 18 25
B Limits on Content 25 35
C Violations of User Rights 18 40
Last Year's Score & Status
60 100 Partly Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.

header1 Overview

Internet connectivity continues to expand in Mexico, which hosts a vibrant online landscape. The Supreme Court struck down threats to user privacy and anonymous communications during the coverage period by declaring the establishment of a biometric cell phone registry unconstitutional. Internet freedom in the country remains threatened, however. Violence against online reporters continued in one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, while further evidence of the government’s use of spyware against dissenting voices surfaced. Regular attempts to influence online narratives through the politicized removal of content and amplification efforts from coordinated and largely inauthentic networks, including during electoral periods, also persist.

Mexico has been an electoral democracy since 2000, and alternation in power between parties is routine at both the federal and state levels. However, the country suffers from severe rule of law deficits that limit full citizen enjoyment of political rights and civil liberties. Violence perpetrated by organized criminals, corruption among government officials, human rights abuses by both state and nonstate actors, and rampant impunity are among the most visible of Mexico’s many governance challenges.

header2 Key Developments, June 1, 2021 - May 31, 2022

  • The Federal Telecommunications Institute’s (IFT) Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines went into effect in September 2021, allowing internet service providers (ISPs) to engage in the paid prioritization of traffic. The guidelines had been criticized by civil society for allowing discrimination against lesser-funded content providers and lacking transparency requirements for ISPs’ network management practices (see A5 and B6).
  • State actors continued to use legal threats to take down journalistic information posted online. In April 2022, for instance, a Yucatan judge ordered six online outlets to remove their reporting on alleged corruption by a former government official and the related revocation of her pension (see B2).
  • Details of efforts to influence Mexico’s online sphere emerged throughout the coverage period; reports revealed coordinated inauthentic behavior during electoral periods, state-financed disinformation campaigns, and online networks amplifying support for President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and trolling his critics (see B5).
  • In April 2022, the Supreme Court ruled that the creation of a biometric cell phone registry previously approved by Congress was unconstitutional. The court echoed criticism from digital rights organizations in its ruling, citing the registry’s infringement on privacy rights and lack of adequate safeguards for sensitive data (see C4).
  • The Mexican government was implicated in the use of Pegasus spyware in July 2021 when the results of the Pegasus Project, a journalistic investigation into the NSO Group of Israel, were published. The project reported on the government’s use of Pegasus to target critics. In November 2021, the Office of the Attorney General (FGR) announced the detention of an individual accused of using Pegasus to surveil a journalist (see C5).
  • Media freedom watchdog Article 19 documented 644 aggressions against journalists in 2021, including the murder at least 7 journalists in potential retaliation for their work. Other forms of physical violence, including abductions and attacks, also continued (see C7).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 5.005 6.006

Internet connectivity and service quality continue to improve in Mexico.1 According to the latest data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the internet penetration rate stood at 72 percent in 2020.2 The share of Mexicans with fixed-line internet subscriptions has increased over the past decade, growing from 8.6 percent in 2010 to 18.9 percent in 2021.3

Mobile penetration has also increased steadily, with over 108 million subscriptions being reported in 2021.4 Major mobile service providers are transitioning away from their second-generation (2G) technology to repurpose spectrum for 4G technology.5

Obstacles to extensive 5G mobile network coverage include the high tax rate for 5G providers proposed by Congress, the lack of infrastructure, and the insufficient release of 5G frequencies in a 2021 industry tender.6 In December 2021, AT&T launched 5G service in some Mexico City neighborhoods; in February 2022, Telcel was granted permits to use the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) frequency for mobile service, which will allow the introduction of 5G products.7

Speedtest recorded a median fixed-line download speed of 48.5 megabits per second (Mbps) in August 2022, placing Mexico 77th out of 182 countries surveyed. Mexico also placed 77th out of 140 countries in its mobile survey, with a median mobile download speed of 24.3 Mbps.8

Telecommunications reforms introduced in 2013 were designed to substantially reshape the industry and increase internet access.9 Though some landmark initiatives introduced in the reform package have been discontinued by the López Obrador administration, the development of wholesale wireless network Red Compartida has continued (see A2).10 Altán Redes, the consortium in charge of the project, launched operations in 2018 with the ultimate goal of reaching more than 92 percent of the population by January 2024.11 As of May 2022, Altán Redes has reached over 70 percent of the country’s population, providing coverage for over 108,100 localities with under 5,000 inhabitants.12

  • 1“Telecommunications in Mexico. Three Years After the Constitutional Reform,” Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT), June 2016,….
  • 2Statistics,” International Telecommunication Union,
  • 3“Historical time series, fixed and mobile broadband penetration,” OECD Broadband Portal, December 2021,
  • 4“Total fixed and mobile broadband subscriptions by country,” OECD Broadband Portal, December 2021,
  • 5Nicolás Larocca, “México: Telefónica confirma que apagará 2G el primero de enero de 2021” [Mexico: Telefonica confirms it will switch off 2G on January 1st 2021], Telesemana, October 8, 2020,…
  • 6Nicolás Lucas, “¿Qué oportunidades y obstáculos presenta la licitación IFT-10 de espectro para servicios móviles?” [What are the opportunities and obstacles posed by the IFT-10 spectrum tender for mobile services?], El Economista, September 9, 2020,…; Cámara Nacional de la Industria Electrónica, de Telecomunicaciones y Tecnologías de la Información, “Comentario en Consulta Pública de Integración acerca del cuestionario sobre Bandas de Frecuencias del Espectro Radioeléctrico para Sistemas Móviles de Quinta Generación (5G)” [Comment in the Public Consultation on Radioelectric spectrum bandwidths for fifth generation mobile systems (5G)], Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, October 21, 2019,…
  • 7Marco Mares, “Red 5G: Telcel recibe banderazo [5G Network: Telcel gets a green flag],” El Economista, February 10, 2022,….
  • 8Speedtest, “Mexico's Mobile and Fixed Broadband Internet Speeds,” August 2022,
  • 9“Resolución mediante la cual el pleno del Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones modifica el título de concesión para usar, aprovechar y explotar bandas de frecuencias del espectro radioeléctrico para uso comercial, otorgado al organismo promotor de inversiones en telecomunicaciones y el título de concesión para uso comercial, con carácter de red compartida mayorista de servicios de telecomunicaciones otorgado a Altán Redes, S.A.P.I. de C.V.” [Resolution through which the IFT plenary modifies the concession contract to use and exploit radioelectrical spectrum bandwidths for comercial use, granted to the government body that promotes telecommunications investments, and the concession contract for the comercial use of a wholesale shared network, granted to Altán Redes, S.A.P.I. de C.V.], Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, November 13, 2019,….
  • 10“Resolución mediante la cual el pleno del Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones modifica el título de concesión para usar, aprovechar y explotar bandas de frecuencias del espectro radioeléctrico para uso comercial, otorgado al organismo promotor de inversiones en telecomunicaciones y el título de concesión para uso comercial, con carácter de red compartida mayorista de servicios de telecomunicaciones otorgado a Altán Redes, S.A.P.I. de C.V.” [Resolution through which the IFT plenary modifies the concession contract to use and exploit radioelectrical spectrum bandwidths for comercial use, granted to the government body that promotes telecommunications investments, and the concession contract for the comercial use of a wholesale shared network, granted to Altán Redes, S.A.P.I. de C.V.], Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, November 13, 2019,….
  • 11“Altán la Red Compartida, a través de sus Operadores Móviles Virtuales, ofrece conectividad 4.5G LTE a 2 millones de usuarios finales” [Red Compartida, through its Virtual Mobile Operators, offers 4.5G LTE connectivity to 2 million final users], Altán Redes, March 1, 2021,
  • 12“Altán la Red Compartida, a través de sus Operadores Móviles Virtuales, ofrece conectividad 4.5G LTE a 2 millones de usuarios finales [Red Compartida, through its Virtual Mobile Operators, offers 4.5G LTE connectivity to 2 million final users],” Altán Redes, March 1, 2021,; “ALTÁN la Red Compartida consolida crecimiento con 6 millones de usuarios finales [Altán Red consolidates its growth with 6 million final users],” Altán Redes, May 17, 2022,….
A2 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
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

Despite growing internet penetration, the urban-rural digital divide has remained significant: In 2021, 81.6 percent of the urban population used the internet, while only 56.5 percent of the rural population did so.1 A 2021 national survey estimated that more than 10 million individuals in rural areas do not have mobile phones, nearly half of them for financial reasons; over 2.5 million rural residents, meanwhile, may not have internet connectivity through their mobile devices.2

Prohibitive costs have kept around 57 percent of lower-income Mexicans from accessing the internet according to the results of a 2021 survey.3 Though average prices for mobile data packages have dropped in recent years, they remain some of the highest in Central America. According to UK-based company Cable, the average cost of 1 gigabyte (GB) of mobile data was $2.89 in 2022, a steep decline from the average cost of $15.05 in 2019.4 Cable found the country’s average monthly cost of fixed-line broadband to be the lowest in Central America in 2022, at $17.82.5

Indigenous communities, who represent more than 15 percent of the country’s population, also face a digital divide in mobile coverage. In August 2021, IFT reported that 80 percent of the Indigenous population is covered by 2G, 3G, or 4G technology; this number drops to 57 percent in Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca states.6 Major providers’ recent efforts to switch off 2G and repurpose spectrum for 4G technology may disproportionately impact these communities (see A1). Network providers that serve Indigenous communities continue to operate with 2G technology, however.7

Civil society responses to internet access challenges have continued to flourish in Indigenous communities. A pilot project launched in November 2020 saw the nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Equitable Origin and the Regional Indigenous and Popular Council of Xpujil (CRIPX) partner with HughesNet, a satellite internet service provider, to connect Indigenous communities to the internet using satellite technology.8

The government has shut down past initiatives to expand internet access among Indigenous and rural communities, however. By December 2020, the government had overseen the closure of all public access points implemented under the previous administration’s México Conectado (Connected Mexico) program, without announcing plans for their replacement.9

Telecommunications providers have continued to invest in efforts to reduce the digital divide. In April 2022, Spanish telecommunications operator HISPASAT and ISP GlobalSat collaborated to launch free satellite connectivity hotspots in 500 remote towns.10

Pricing practices, including zero-rating plans, limit the diversity of content users with different financial means can access. Service providers such as Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T, for instance, offer zero-rating plans in which certain digital services like HBO, Netflix, WhatsApp, and social networking sites do not count toward a customer’s data allowance.11

A3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 6.006 6.006

There were no reports of government-imposed restrictions on connectivity during the coverage period. Under IFT’s Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines, which took effect in September 2021, government-mandated internet shutdowns or disruptions, as well as disruptions to mobile apps, are not permissible.1 Article 190 of the 2014 Telecommunications Law, however, authorizes the “appropriate authority” within the government to request the suspension of telephone service in order to “halt the commission of crimes.”2

Although most of the backbone infrastructure is privately owned, the state-owned company Telecomunicaciones de México (Telecomm) plays an important role, having taken over fiber-optic infrastructure from the Federal Electricity Commission at the end of 2014.3 Mexico’s first internet exchange point (IXP) was set up by KIO Networks in April 2014. It increases efficiency and reduces costs for Mexican ISPs by helping to manage traffic across networks.4 In 2018, the Ministry of Communications and Transport and the Yucatan state government signed an agreement to build the next IXP in Mexico;5 after a local government transition and an extensive community-building and training process,6 it began operating in February 2021.7

A4 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 4.004 6.006

Reforms over the past decade have sought to improve the information and communication technology (ICT) market by reducing market dominance and barriers to investment.

Under 2013 constitutional amendments, telecommunications companies that control more than 50 percent of the market are subject to antitrust measures by the regulator.1 IFT has moved to curtail the country’s dominant players in the recent past, including with a December 2020 resolution that imposed new financial restrictions for a leading company, América Móvil, that included curtailing user charges for unlocking devices and out-of-network roaming, as well as the end of promotional prices.2 New customers are offered services provided via Red Compartida in order to spur competition.3

However, the ICT market remains dominated by a few players. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the mobile service provider with the largest market share was América Móvil (71.2 percent), followed by AT&T (18.7 percent) and Telefónica-owned Movistar (8.2 percent).4 In the fourth quarter of 2020, América Móvil also led the fixed-line broadband market (45.6 percent), followed by Grupo Televisa (24.7 percent), and Megacable MCM (16 percent).5

A5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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

As part of the 2013 constitutional reform, the government established IFT as a new autonomous regulatory agency to increase the transparency of media regulation.1 IFT has the legal mandate to act as an antitrust body, protecting the industry against monopolistic practices.

However, under López Obrador, IFT and other independent bodies became regular targets of government pressure that have included sizable budget reductions.2 A 2020 government proposal to merge IFT with two other regulators was indefinitely postponed after drawing condemnation from civil society over its threat to the regulator’s independence.3 In January 2021, President López Obrador announced a planned reform to incorporate IFT and the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information, and Personal Data Protection (INAI) into the federal government, removing their autonomy.4 Though the president later decided against dissolving IFT, his plans for the INAI remained unclear as of June 2022 (see C6).5

Despite receiving some criticism for decisions on antitrust measures and draft net neutrality guidelines in recent years,6 IFT has continued to reaffirm its independence. In May 2021, for instance, IFT challenged the creation of a biometric cell phone registry—one that Congress had directed the agency to create, operate, and maintain—as unconstitutional (see C4).7

From 2019 to 2021, IFT received criticism for its Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines, which civil society actors have claimed is an attempt to undermine net neutrality in Mexico (see B6).8 The new guidelines went into effect in September 2021.9 In 2017, IFT was also criticized for authorizing América Móvil’s Telcel to exploit 60 MHz of the 2.5 GHz spectrum band.10 Associations including the Telecommunications Law Institute (IDET) and the Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU) argued that this move in fact reinforced the dominant player, contradicting IFT’s mandate to guarantee competition and equal conditions for all agents in the sector.11

B Limits on Content

B1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
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

There has been no documented evidence that the government or other actors block or filter the internet or any other ICT content. Social networking sites and international blog-hosting services are available in Mexico.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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

State and nonstate actors have increasingly used legal threats and other methods to pressure social media platforms, web-hosting providers, and individual users to remove content in recent years. The full scope and nature of government requests to remove content remains unknown, as the government underreports their numbers. In a 2021 report, Article 19 estimated that only 14 percent of government removal requests reported by social media platforms on their transparency reports have been declared by various government offices through freedom of information (FOIA) requests.1

Attempts to remove content frequently target journalistic information posted online. Article 19 recorded 29 removals of journalistic content in 2021; nearly 60 percent of the affected content addressed corruption or politics.2 Twitter reported receiving three requests to remove content authored by verified journalists and news outlets between July and December 2021.3 In April 2022, a Yucatan judge ordered six online outlets to remove their reporting on alleged corruption by a former government official and the related revocation of her pension. The order gave the outlets 24 hours to comply, and threatened sanctions outlined in Article 104 of the criminal code, which allows for fines and arrests of up to 36 hours, for noncompliance.4

During the previous coverage period, ahead of June 2021 legislative elections, various actors alleged that election-related content violated copyright rules in order to get it removed.5 In March and April 2021, multiple news outlets in the state of San Luis Potosí reported that their Facebook content was removed due to alleged copyright infringement. For example, news outlet La livestreamed a session of the State Electoral and Citizen Participation Council that was taken down. A livestream hosted by the outlets denouncing the deletion of content was also removed.6 Legal threats were also wielded to compel media outlets and journalists to take down content from their websites ahead of the legislative elections.7

Powerful actors are also successful at getting content removed more broadly by claiming it violates privacy regulations and the Federal Copyright Law (see B3). Between October 2020 and April 2021, YouTube temporarily removed or restricted at least eight videos from the La Voz de Julio channel, most of which related to the financing of government officials or public figures.8 In February 2022, Rest of World reported on the activities of Spanish reputation management company Eliminalia in Mexico, which the firm launched in 2015. Eliminalia has been found to use false copyright claims and legal notices to get online content taken down on behalf of powerful clients, including businesspeople and politically connected individuals in Mexico. Of a list of 17,000 URLs targeted on clients’ behalf between 2015 and 2019, more than 2,000 were targeted by clients based in Mexico.9

Facebook restricted over 11,100 pieces of content between July and December 2021, including 36 items related to violations of electoral law and 11,032 items in response to Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risk reports of unsafe products.10 Twitter reported receiving 37 legal requests to remove content during this period, and complied with 37.8 percent of requests.11 Google reported receiving 33 government requests to remove content during the same period, 39 percent of which were for alleged defamation.12

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 3.003 4.004

Despite some ambiguity in the legal and regulatory framework, it and the independent courts offer significant safeguards against arbitrary or opaque restrictions on content, and past attempts to impose new restrictions have faced strong opposition. In 2017, the Supreme Court declared that blocking an entire website because of alleged copyright violations was unconstitutional, finding it to be a disproportionate measure that infringed on freedom of expression.1

However, the 2020 reform of the Federal Copyright Law regarding intermediary liability largely negates the protection that the courts have previously provided. The reform establishes “notice and takedown” provisions that require online platforms and hosting services to remove any content requested by a copyright holder alleging infringement, without need of judicial authorization or evidence. The intermediary can face fines ranging from 1,000 ($46) to 2,000 ($92) pesos should they fail to comply. The law also empowers those alleging copyright infringement to obtain personal information on the individual accused of posting the offending content, without proof or protective provisions for the alleged offender. Moreover, the reform places the burden on users to prove that content was removed illegitimately, and on platforms to inform takedown requestors about appeals. Additional provisions require internet services to take measures to prevent prior removed content from being uploaded to their respective service a second time, essentially mandating filters; noncompliance can result in fines. NGOs have criticized the changes for their potential to promote censorship online and endanger users accused of infringement.2

A problematic February 2021 legislative proposal would limit the transparency and proportionality of removals but had not been passed by June 2022. The bill would empower IFT to oversee social media companies’ content moderation practices, have the final say on content moderation disputes, and overrule companies’ decisions on content removal. IFT would also be empowered to change platforms’ terms of service and establish other operation– and content-related rules. Under the proposal, IFT could also impose fines as large as $4.4 million for noncompliance. The proposed regulations would apply to platforms with over one million users, which would require IFT’s approval to operate in the country. Platforms would also be required to censor speech upon IFT demand, including vaguely defined “hate speech,” “fake news,” and speech that goes against “order and public interest.” Conversely, platforms would be prohibited from censoring content not outlined in the bill. Under the envisioned appeals system, users could escalate appeals on removal decisions with platforms, the telecommunications regulator, and the judicial system.3

Civil society has criticized the bill for its risk to free expression, regulatory burdens, and indiscriminate censorship.4 Groups have also warned against its potential to increase media concentration through fines that could keep smaller platforms from operating and the arbitrary decision-making power it grants IFT around which platforms can operate and what content they can host.5

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 2.002 4.004

Independent digital outlets provide information about key political and social issues, though a climate of violence and harassment against the media contributes to some self-censorship, especially in states that are heavily affected by violent crime (see B7 and C7).1 Local media tend to refrain from reporting on drug trafficking and organized crime.

A January 2020 study by the media freedom NGO SembraMedia noted that 21 percent of the digital outlets assessed admitted to avoiding covering certain topics, people, or institutions due to threats or intimidation.2 According to the director of one online outlet, who was quoted in Article 19’s annual 2021 report, an increase in violence in Guanajuato State has prompted local journalists to “[opt] for superficial coverage of the violence, limited to official declarations and anonymous testimony.”3

B5 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 1.001 4.004

Mexico has a history of online trolls and automated “bot” accounts targeting discussions and reports that are critical of the government, political parties, or politicians.1 During 2018 and 2021 election campaigns, journalists and researchers observed how bots and hired trolls were used to spread propaganda and disinformation, promoting progovernment candidates and attacking opposition candidates on social media.2

Platforms regularly detect efforts to influence Mexico’s online sphere through coordinated inauthentic behavior. Over the course of 2021, Meta detected 11 such networks in Mexico—more than in any other country, though a Facebook official has described them as relatively ineffective.3 These efforts are especially significant around electoral periods. In June 2021, Facebook reported removing three Mexico-based networks of inauthentic accounts for violating the platform’s policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of that month’s gubernatorial elections.4 The networks, which separately targeted audiences in the states of Campeche, San Luis Potosí, Nayarit, and Sinaloa, employed inauthentic accounts and sometimes ran pages that appeared as local news outlets to amplify content supporting and criticizing a variety of candidates. Facebook found links between the networks, Mexican public relations firms, and state-affiliated actors. The network targeting audiences in San Luis Potosí, which primarily amplified content supporting victorious gubernatorial candidate Ricardo Gallardo Cardona, for instance, was found to have links to individuals associated with Cardona’s campaign.5

Shortly before June 2021 legislative elections, a representative from Signa Lab noted the rise of online manipulation and attacks, as well as the proliferation of misinformation. The prominence of inauthentic accounts was confirmed by TwitterAudit, which estimated that 26 percent of President López Obrador’s Twitter followers were inauthentic and that 19 percent of former president Felipe Calderon’s Twitter followers were inauthentic.6

Misinformation was also spread by state-linked actors for political purposes in the 2018 election. In April 2022, Animal Politico reported on consulting firm Heurística’s role in financing disinformation campaigns targeting Ricardo Anaya Cortés and Alejandra Barrales, two candidates who competed against López Obrador. The firm, which coordinated López Obrador’s campaign that year, produced and propagated viral videos containing untrue or unsubstantiated claims about Anaya and Barrales. Agency employees also confirmed that they had managed inauthentic profiles to interact with the videos to enhance their prominence on social networks.7

Online campaigns amplifying support for López Obrador and trolling his rivals or users who question or criticize him have been mounted outside of electoral periods. In December 2021, the Stanford Internet Observatory reported on a network of 276 accounts removed by Twitter that month that had engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior in 2019 and 2020—including by repurposing accounts originally created for reality television shows—to amplify support for López Obrador and his government’s initiatives while targeting his opponents. Many of the implicated accounts also voiced support for subsidiaries of Mexican conglomerate Grupo Salinas, which is owned by an ally of the president; the network targeted the conglomerate’s opponents and defended Group Salinas stores’ operation during COVID-19 lockdowns.8

Previously, a February 2019 report by Signa Lab detailed how a seemingly coordinated network of Twitter accounts formed by “semibots,” trolls, and fans spread attacks against government critics, using hashtags such as #chayoteros (referring to journalists who take bribes) or #PrensaFifi (snobbish press).9 In May 2020, Signa Lab, Aristegui Noticias, and Article 19 published a joint investigation on coordinated attacks perpetrated by Twitter accounts associated with Notimex, the government-run news agency, aimed at the outlet’s former journalists and a strike organized by Notimex workers.10

B6 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 2.002 3.003

Scarce funding creates challenges for individuals and nonprofits seeking to establish sustainable online outlets. Reliance on advertising purchases by public institutions renders independent media vulnerable to content manipulation or closure due to withdrawal of funding,1 although the former appears to be the more pernicious of the two trends.2 The government has used lengthy tax audits as a “preferred tactic” to pressure media outlets, according to SembraMedia.3

Article 19 noted that 10 media and communication companies received 52 percent of the total official advertising budget in 2021, the rest of which was distributed to 441 other groups.4 The 2018 Social Communication Law, which regulates government spending on advertising, has been criticized for its lack of clear rules and facilitation of discretionary public advertising.5

Digital outlets have worked towards alternative sources of funding. According to a survey that was published in July 2021, 79 percent of 19 surveyed digital local outlets were implementing paid content models or were planning to do so within three years.6

Though the 2014 Telecommunications Law established protections for net neutrality, IFT’s Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines,7 which went into effect in September 2021,8 allow ISPs to engage in the paid prioritization of traffic (see A5). The policy had been criticized by civil society, who argued that it would allow for discrimination against nonprofit and lesser-funded entities and content providers and lacked transparency requirements for ISPs around their network management practices.9

B7 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3.003 4.004

Violence and economic constraints affect independent digital outlets in Mexico.1 Despite these challenges, independent outlets continue to emerge and operate, enriching the media ecosystem with alternative agendas that support human rights and the right to information.2 Examples include Lado B, an outlet created by freelancers and local journalists in Puebla, and Amapola, an outlet from Guerrero that questions the state’s narrative regarding criminal violence.3

Sustained efforts to create outlets that represent diverse experiences have also found success in Mexico. Homosensual is one of the most widely read LGBT+ websites in Latin America and was nominated for outstanding Spanish-language online journalism in the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) 2021 Media Awards.4

As public awareness about online manipulation and the spread of disinformation has increased, fact-checking and data journalism initiatives have sought to counter false information presented through official channels and other media. As of March 2022, SPIN Taller de Comunicación Política, for instance, claimed that President López Obrador made over 76,500 false claims in the first 1,217 days of his term after fact-checking his daily press conferences.5

  • 1“Los medios digitales nativos pagan un precio por perseguir la verdad” [Native digital media pay a price for chasing the truth], Sembramedia, accessed January 6, 2020,
  • 2For example: Based in Mexico City, Pie de Página is an initiative born from the experience of the Periodistas de a pie network and Radios Libres, a project that seeks to boost communitarian radios with free technologies. Another innovative initiative in the digital media landscape is Pictoline, born at the end of 2015. Other examples of independent online news outlets in other states are Página 3 based in Oaxaca; and Chiapas Paralelo in Chiapas.
  • 3Amapola Periodismo Transgresor, accessed January 6, 2020,
  • 4“The Nominees for the 32nd Annual GLAAD Media Awards,” GLAAD, accessed July 12, 2021,
  • 5“Infografía #72” [Infographic #72], Conferencias matutinas de AMLO–SPIN TCP, March 31, 2022,
B8 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 6.006 6.006

Even in the face of cyberattacks, harassment, and physical assaults, users make regular use of digital tools to raise awareness about human rights abuses related to violence in the country and to mobilize protests.

A sustained movement against gender-based violence (GBV) has been organized on different online channels, leading to historic participation in street demonstrations and strikes, for the last several years.1 Feminist activists and collectives have also used digital platforms to promote discussions about GBV, building on hashtags such as #YoTambién (Me Too), #MiPrimerAcoso (My First Harassment), and #SiMeMatan (If I Am Murdered). In April 2022, feminist protests were held across the country after 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar, who had gone missing earlier that month, was found dead in Monterrey; protesters called for justice in the Escobar case and for other missing women. The protests were sparked by an image of Escobar, taken on the night of her disappearance, that had spread on social media.2 Escobar’s parents sought to mobilize support and demand justice for their daughter via digital platforms; in June 2022, they publicly called on supporters to post an image of a lit candle on social media with the hashtag #JusticiaparaDebanhi (Justice for Debanhi).3

Activism for internet freedom issues also occurs in Mexico. In March 2022, digital rights group R3D launched the #NoNosVeanLaCara (Don’t See Our Faces) campaign to protest the installation of facial recognition systems in soccer stadiums and the creation of a database that attendees are required to register with.4 Online mobilization also addresses other social issues, like Indigenous people’s internet access. By July 2021, an online petition that began in April for Red Compartida to provide coverage to Indigenous communities in the Mixtec highlands of Oaxaca had gathered over 36,000 signatures.5

C Violations of User Rights

C1 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
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 constitution and its regulatory laws guarantee freedom of speech, freedom of the press, privacy of personal communications, and freedom of access to information. A constitutional reform in 2013 established internet access as a human right and guaranteed net neutrality (see B6). However, the López Obrador administration’s policies and proposals have sought to undermine existing safeguards for these rights (see A5, C2 and C6).

The judiciary is currently regarded as generally independent, but a series of appointments of Supreme Court justices viewed as close to the government raised concerns about its diminished autonomy under López Obrador. An April 2021 law extended the term of Supreme Court president Arturo Zaldívar, who is viewed as a López Obrador ally; that August, however, Zaldívar ultimately announced that he would not extend his term past its originally scheduled end.1

Despite these concerns, the judiciary has exhibited impartiality and ruled in favor of human rights online, as with the Supreme Court’s invalidation of a biometric cell phone registry in April 2022 (see C4). For his part, Zaldívar emphasized the lack of security in data handling and the consequent lack of justification for the state to maintain so much private information, as well as the registry’s likely ineffectiveness in combating crime.2

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
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

Provisions from both the criminal and civil codes continue to be used to intimidate ordinary users and journalists, including those who publish online. For example, Article 277 of the state penal code in San Luis Potosí criminalizes those who insult authority with one-to-three-year prison sentences.1 Additionally, although defamation was decriminalized at the federal level in 2007, state-level criminal defamation statutes persist.2

Legislation to criminalize hate speech, discrimination, terrorism, and misinformation at the federal and state levels has been proposed in recent years, though no proposals moved forward by the end of the coverage period.3 In June 2020, for instance, President López Obrador proposed legislation that, if approved, would reform the federal criminal code, lengthening the sentences for discrimination and introducing new types of offenses.4 As of May 2022, the proposal had not been discussed by the Senate.5 In January 2020, Article 19 denounced the leaked draft of a federal bill that criminalized crimes to honor, crimes against public order and peace, and “terrorism”—defined as the use of digital tools to exercise pressure on authorities; it had not yet been formally introduced by June 2022.6

The movement to criminalize the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images saw major developments during the previous coverage period. In April 2021, Congress approved reforms to the General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence and the federal criminal code, legislation known as the national Olympia Law (Ley Olimpia), which criminalizes the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images without consent and punishes “digital violence.”7 It includes provisions for three-to-six-year prison sentences and fines of up to 90,000 pesos ($4,170) for those found guilty of digital violence as defined by the law.8 As of July 2022, 29 of the country’s 32 states had passed laws in line with the federal Olympia Law;9 gender and digital rights organizations criticized a number of them as disproportionate, a potential inducement of censorship, and lacking reparations for victims.10 The Senate approved the federal law in November 2020, without adjusting the law to incorporate criticisms raised by civil society groups, including the ambiguity of concepts like “digital violence” and the vagueness of what constitutes “intimate sexual content.”11 Nonetheless, the Olympia Law did not appear to have been used to censor journalists as of the end of the coverage period.

C3 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 4.004 6.006

Threats of legal action are frequently issued in response to critical reports published online. Article 19 documented a rise in judicial harassment against journalists in 2021, when an average of three journalists or media outlets were sued for their reporting each month.1

In April 2022, Eduardo Lliteras of online news outlet was sued for alleged moral damage by businessman Rafael Acosta Solís, after Lliteras published an article alleging that Solís had stolen a backpack containing documents and money.2 In February 2022, a collective of journalists and representatives from press freedom organizations demanded that authorities stop harassing the press through judicial means, citing cases in recent years in which journalists have been sued for millions of pesos in retaliation for their work.3

In March 2022, journalist Arturo López Herrera of online outlet and Facebook news page La Voz Carmen con Arturo Palomeque was detained by Campeche police and held incommunicado for allegedly parking illegally and “insulting authority.” López Herrera denounced his arrest as retaliation for videos he had published days prior of police official Brayan Torres Pérez, who arrested the journalist over the alleged parking violation, visiting a bar while on duty. Authorities accused López Herrera of resisting arrest and violence against Pérez, though videos of the arrest circulating on social media reportedly show Pérez using excessive force.4

Online journalists continue to risk arbitrary arrest while covering protests or police abuses. In October 2021, photojournalists Erik Daniel Toxtle Nolasco and Brian Omar Toledo Chavarin of online news outlet Sinaloa en Línea were arbitrarily detained and physically and verbally assaulted by police while covering the detention of several individuals; police also took one of the journalist’s cell phones (see C7).5 During the previous coverage period, in November and December 2020, multiple journalists for the online outlet Descontento Ciudadano QR were detained by police in Cancún, Quintana Roo, in relation to their coverage. Jorge Ugalde, of the same outlet, livestreamed a police operation on Facebook in December 2020, during which police abused their authority and pulled over cars without cause.6 The officers involved arrested him, threw him to the ground, took his phone, erased its memory—which included the recording of the livestream—and detained him for two hours, during which time he reported being beaten and threatened (see C7).7

C4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 3.003 4.004

Score Change: The score improved from 2 to 3 because the Supreme Court ruled that a problematic biometric cell phone registry, passed by Congress in April 2021, was unconstitutional.

Website owners, bloggers, and ordinary users are not required to register with the Mexican government. The government does not generally impose restrictions on anonymity or encryption for internet users, though the country’s largest telecommunications provider was found to have briefly restricted access to Tor, an online tool that provides some anonymity to its users, in 2020.1

In April 2022,2 the Supreme Court struck down the creation of a problematic biometric cell phone registry (PANAUT) that had been established through a reform to the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law passed by Congress in April 2021. The court echoed criticism from digital rights organizations in its ruling, citing PANAUT’s unnecessary infringement on privacy rights and inadequate data safeguards.3

The Supreme Court had suspended the registry in June 2021 on request of IFT, which was to oversee the installation, operation, regulation, and maintenance of PANAUT.4 In its request, IFT claimed that the register’s mandate required the agency to take on a financial burden that could compromise its ability to fulfill its regulatory duties.5

Under the registry, users would have been required to join when purchasing a SIM card or activating a new prepaid mobile line. Telecommunications companies would have been required to collect the data, which would include fingerprints or iris recognition as well as the user’s name, address, phone number, nationality, and national Population Registration Key (CURP) number, and enter it into the registry. Telecommunications companies had two years to collect this data from existing customers. Customers who failed to hand over their data and documentation could receive heavy fines and have their mobile line permanently cancelled.6 The registry was to be made available to “authorities overseeing issues of security and justice” without needing a court order or meeting other oversight requirements.7

C5 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 1.001 6.006

The government has used the poor security situation in the country to justify expanding the state’s surveillance powers, with little accountability and oversight. Abuses of digital spying technologies meant for law enforcement purposes emerged during the coverage period, but they have not been thoroughly investigated.

The government was implicated in the use of Pegasus when the results of the Pegasus Project investigation was published in July 2021. Pegasus has been used to target those investigating government corruption and human rights abuses in Mexico.1 Leaked data from NSO Group, originally accessed by Forbidden Stories and Amnesty International and shared with 15 media organizations, confirmed and expanded upon prior reporting on the Mexican government’s use of Pegasus against critical voices.2 Some 15,000 phone numbers from a leaked list of 50,000—which are presumed to belong to the targets of NSO clients—belonged to people located in Mexico, including journalists and politicians; the Mexican bloc was the largest in the entire list.3 By March 2019, Citizen Lab and Mexican partner organizations had documented at least 25 cases in which journalists, human rights lawyers, activists, and political figures were targeted by Pegasus.4

In November 2021, the FGR announced its first detention in the Pegasus investigation: Juan Carlos García, an employee in one of the dozen private companies that served as intermediaries between the Mexican government and NSO Group. García was accused of spying on a journalist via Pegasus in a way that “affected, limited and undermined her freedom of expression.”5 In March 2022, Article 19 denounced statements made by Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero claiming that Pegasus had only been used for “private use.” Article 19 noted evidence that several government agencies used Pegasus and criticized the continued lack of transparency around Pegasus’s use in Mexico.6

Officials have access to other surveillance tools with interception capabilities. In May 2020, three NGOs found 21 active international mobile subscriber identity–catchers (IMSI catchers) in central Mexico, which can be used to intercept mobile data from all devices in the immediate area.7 Three of the IMSI catchers were acquired during the López Obrador administration, which had also contracted the surveillance company L3Harris Technologies for over $1 million in March, April, and June 2019.

In December 2020, Citizen Lab published a report detailing cyberespionage firm Circles’ deployment in countries around the world; they noted the apparent existence of 10 Circles systems in Mexico and found that the Mexican navy and the Durango state government possessed internet protocol (IP) addresses connected to Circles operations, some of them active well into 2020.8 In April 2021, El País reported that the FGR had paid $5.6 million to Neolinx de México, across at least four contracts, in order to geolocate cell phones and analyze mass surveillance data.9

C6 1.00-6.00 pts0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 4.004 6.006

Article 189 of the 2014 Telecommunications Law forces companies to provide users’ geolocation information and other communications metadata to police, military, or intelligence agencies in real time. Article 190 requires providers to maintain records of their users’ metadata for a period of two years, and grants security agencies access to these records at any time.1 In 2016, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the law’s requirements for data retention and real-time geolocation. However, the ruling established the need for a judicial warrant to access historical metadata.2

Reforms to the criminal procedural code in 2016 required a judicial warrant for government entities to access geolocation data, with some exceptions such as kidnapping cases in which a person’s life or physical integrity is in danger.3 The 2016 Supreme Court ruling also provided some clarification as to which authorities can access user data; they included federal prosecutors, federal police, and the agency directly in charge of applying and coordinating the National Security Law.

An April 2021 reform of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law established a biometric cell phone registry that tasked telecommunications companies with collecting biometric data; the Supreme Court ultimately ruled the registry unconstitutional in April 2022 (see C4).4 The database was to be accessible to authorities overseeing public security and justice.5 In another development that could jeopardize user privacy, President López Obrador disclosed his intention to merge the INAI into the federal government, removing its autonomy (see A5).6 The INAI is an independent agency with the power to take legal action against entities that violate data protection laws.7

In October 2018, R3D released a report showing that telecommunications companies received more than 140,000 requests for users’ personal information during 2016 and 2017. The researchers were unable to identify the authorities that made more than a third of these requests. Telcel and Telmex complied in 100 percent of the cases, Movistar fulfilled 83.4 percent of requests, and AT&T cooperated on 61.5 percent of them.8

C7 1.00-5.00 pts0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 0.000 5.005

Journalists for online outlets continue to face threats and violence from organized criminal groups, members of local governments, and other actors. Mexico remains the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists and one of the most dangerous in the world.1

Article 19 documented 644 aggressions against journalists in 2021, including 198 instances of intimidation and harassment, 96 threats, 62 physical attacks, and 7 murders in retaliation for their work. Nearly 45 percent of attacks against journalists related to coverage of corruption and politics, while 24 percent were linked to coverage of security and justice issues. Over one-third of hostile incidents perpetrated against the press in 2021 took place online. Article 19 has also noted an increase in aggressions perpetrated by state agents in recent years, which it attributed to López Obrador’s implicit enabling of attacks against journalists through his public comments (see B5). Over 40 percent of smear campaigns against journalists in 2021 were perpetrated by civil servants.2

The Committee to Protect Journalists separately reported that nine journalists, including digital reporters,3 were killed in 2021, at least three of whom were murdered in direct reprisal for their work.4 In July 2021, Ricardo Domínguez López, founder and editor of news website InfoGuaymas, was killed in Sonora by unknown assailants. Though it was not immediately clear whether he was killed in retaliation for his reporting, López reported receiving death threats from criminal organizations over his coverage that March. López also reported being smeared by Guaymas police who falsely accused him of maintaining criminal ties.5 In August 2021, Jacinto Romero Flores, radio journalist and host of online talk show El Enano del Tapanco, was fatally shot by unknown assailants while driving in the state of Veracruz. He had reported receiving multiple threats on WhatsApp after reporting on abuse of authority by municipal police in February.6 In February 2022, Heber López Vásquez, founder and editor of the NoticiasWeb and RCP Noticias news websites (both of which publish reporting on news, politics, and crime on their Facebook pages), was killed by a group of at least two men in Oaxaca. He had published an article on NoticiasWeb the day before, accusing a former municipal official of corruption and the coercion of voters; the official’s brother is a murder suspect.7

Other forms of physical attacks against online journalists from security forces, politicians, and civilians were reported during the coverage period, as were online death threats.8 In August 2021, freelance investigative reporter Maria Teresa Montaño Delgado was abducted, robbed, and threatened by three unidentified men. Delgado was working on a corruption investigation involving state officials at the time of her abduction and broadly serves as the editor of the Observer, which focuses on corruption and fact-checking. She was held for three hours, during which her assailants stole equipment and documents; the men threatened to kill her if she reported the crime.9 In November 2021, unidentified attackers shot several rounds into the car of journalist Beatriz Flores, hours after she received a call from a woman about an article Flores had written for her Facebook-based Presencia Hidalguense outlet. The caller threatened “consequences” if Flores did not delete the article, which was about an arrest of a local man accused of transporting stolen horses.10 In December 2021, Roberto Bravo Hernández of Facebook– and YouTube-based outlet RB Periodismo para Conversar reported being physically attacked while livestreaming a report on poor living conditions in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo five days after being threatened with physical attack by a municipal source.11

Online GBV has become a critical problem in the country, affecting women journalists, politicians, activists, and organizations. A survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography found that nearly 36 percent of female users over the age of 12 faced online sexual harassment in 2020.12 Activist groups have documented significant abuse directed at women, including online hate speech against those who use social media to denounce any type of violence; coordinated efforts to take down websites and social media profiles and to delete the posts of women activists, organizations, and collectives; and smear campaigns, extortion attempts, and nonconsensual dissemination of intimate content that similarly target women.13

C8 1.00-3.00 pts0-3 pts
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, such as distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks and malware infections, have become a central tactic in attempts to suppress freedom of expression in Mexico, and perpetrators are generally able to act with impunity.1

Journalists and activists have frequently reported cases of cyberattacks, often in retaliation for their focus on corruption or human rights issues. During 2021, Article 19 documented 10 DDoS and denial-of-service attacks and 28 instances of unauthorized access against journalists and their outlets.2 Throughout the previous coverage period, for example, the website of local outlet Noroeste faced multiple DDoS attacks. Two separate attacks registered in March 2021 saw almost 48 million and 94 million near-simultaneous access requests to the site, respectively. Noroeste experienced similar attacks from September to December 2020, amounting to 12 in six months; it temporarily closed its site following the March 2021 attacks.3

Critical entities, including financial institutions, are also subject to hacking in Mexico. In March 2022, Mexican bank Citibanamex was among a number of companies affected by a data breach of Argentine IT and software development company Globant.4 Previously, In January 2021, a user on an online forum offered to sell information from three databases, including data from Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria and Santander, as well as from 42 million users of Mexico’s Social Benefits Institute; in December he had offered a database of 60 million Telcel users. Others have offered similar databases from different public and private services in the country.5 Researchers believe the data was stolen by compromising the servers of either the companies themselves, or their providers.6

On Mexico

See all data, scores & information on this country or territory.

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  • Global Freedom Score

    60 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    61 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Partly Free
  • Networks Restricted

  • Websites Blocked

  • Pro-government Commentators

  • Users Arrested