Partly Free
A Obstacles to Access 18 25
B Limits on Content 25 35
C Violations of User Rights 19 40
Last Year's Score & Status
61 100 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, driven by steady improvements to the country’s telecommunications infrastructure. The online environment remains a robust space for political mobilization, social discourse, and journalistic investigations. However, several threats remain to internet freedom in the country. Mexico continues to be one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists, and online journalists are regularly targeted with harassment, threats, and physical violence, contributing to a climate of self-censorship. During the coverage period, evidence emerged that state actors, with probable links to the military, have continued to conduct illegal surveillance of journalists and human rights defenders. Additionally, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his political allies have taken actions to undermine regulators, including those that oversee the telecommunications industry and enforce data protection standards, weaking the effectiveness and independence of these bodies.

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, 2022 - May 31, 2023

  • Government failure to appointment commissioners for several regulatory bodies—including the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), the Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE), and the National Institute for Transparency, Access to Information, and Personal Data Protection (INAI)—seriously weakened their ability to function as independent entities during the coverage period (see A5 and C6).
  • An April 2023 legislative proposal to create a Federal Cybersecurity Law, which remains pending in the Chamber of Deputies, contained several potentially problematic provisions for content regulation, the criminalization of online expression, and user privacy (see B3, C2, and C5).
  • Coordinated progovernment networks continued to manipulate online discussion in favor of President López Obrador and attack his political opponents, including on platforms that receive public funding (see B5).
  • A series of journalistic investigations uncovered evidence that several individuals, including journalists, human rights defenders, and the undersecretary of human rights, had been surveilled using Pegasus spyware. Despite denials from President López Obrador, reporting established probable links that the Mexican military was responsible for this illegal surveillance (see C5).
  • The threat of violence continued to seriously impede the ability of journalists to report online. During the coverage period, at least three journalists were killed in potential retaliation for their online reporting, though a motive has not been confirmed in any of the cases (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), Mexico’s internet penetration rate stood at 76 percent in 2021.2 The National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) and IFT reported that there were 93.1 million internet users in the country as of 2022.3 The share of Mexicans with fixed-line internet subscriptions has increased over the past decade, growing from 9.94 percent in 2012 to 19.87 percent in December 2022.4

Mobile internet penetration has also increased steadily, with almost 120 million subscriptions reported by IFT in December 2022.5 Major mobile service providers are transitioning away from second-generation (2G) technology to repurpose spectrum for 4G technology.6 According to IFT, approximately 84 percent of all mobile internet traffic utilized 4G technology in December 2022, up from 72 percent at the end of 2018.7

The availability of 5G mobile network coverage has expanded in recent years, but obstacles to its expansion have included the high tax rate for 5G providers proposed by Congress, a lack of infrastructure, and the insufficient release of 5G frequencies in a 2021 industry tender.8 However, mobile service providers have continued to improve their 5G networks. By the end of 2022, 5G service was available from mobile provider AT&T in 31 cities and from América Móvil-owned Telcel in 100 cities.9 In December 2022, Movistar announced plans to operate a 5G network in 33 cities by March 2023.10 In July 2022, IFT launched Sensor 5G,11 a website that provides information about the deployment of 5G in Mexico.12

Speedtest recorded a median fixed-line download speed of 59.23 megabits per second (Mbps) in May 2023, placing Mexico 74th out of 181 countries surveyed. Mexico also placed 82nd out of 140 countries in its mobile survey, with a median mobile download speed of 26.20 Mbps.13

Telecommunications reforms introduced in 2013 were designed to substantially reshape the industry and increase internet access.14 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).15 Altán Redes, the consortium in charge of the project, launched its operations in 2018 with the initial goal of reaching more than 92 percent of the population by January 2024, though this goal was later delayed to January 2028 due to the company’s financial difficulties.16 Altán Redes declared bankruptcy in November 2021 to restructure debt with its creditors,17 and announced that it had successfully exited commercial bankruptcy one year later, in November 2022.18 As of October 2022, Altán Redes had reached over 70.73 percent of the country’s population, providing coverage for 108,934 localities with under 5,000 inhabitants.19

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 remains significant: in 2022, 83.8 percent of the urban population used the internet, compared to only 62.3 percent of the rural population.1 A 2022 national survey estimated that almost 10 million individuals in rural areas do not have mobile phones, more than 40 percent of them for financial reasons, and that over 2.3 million rural residents may not have internet connectivity through their mobile devices.2

Prohibitively high costs have kept 52.9 percent of lower-income Mexicans from accessing the internet, according to the results of a 2022 survey.3 As of 2021, INEGI reported that 34 percent of households in the lowest socioeconomic category have access to the internet, compared to more than 90 percent of households in the highest socioeconomic category.4 Though average prices for mobile data packages have dropped significantly in recent years, they remain more expensive than most countries in Latin America. According to the British 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 2019.5 Cable found Mexico’s average monthly cost of fixed-line broadband, $31.05 in 2023, to be relatively affordable when compared with other Latin American countries.6

Indigenous communities, who represent almost 10 percent of the country’s population, also face a digital divide in mobile coverage. In August 2022, IFT reported that 80 percent of the Indigenous population is covered by 2G, 3G, or 4G technology; however, this number drops to 62 percent in localities classified as historical Indigenous settlements.7 Major providers’ recent efforts to switch off 2G and repurpose its spectrum for 4G technology may disproportionately impact these communities (see A1). Network providers that serve Indigenous communities continue to operate with 2G technology, however.8

Civil society responses to internet access challenges have flourished in Indigenous communities. In October 2022, Tosepan Titataniske, an Indigenous cooperative from the northern highlands of the Puebla state, launched the Wiki Katat service, providing affordable mobile telephone and internet services using the Altán Redes network.9

Telecommunications providers have continued to invest in efforts to reduce the digital divide. In November 2022, Spanish telecommunications operator Hispasat and network provider Sencinet agreed to extend a contract to continue providing satellite broadband services in rural areas of Mexico through the end of 2024.10 Previously, in April 2022, Hispasat also signed an agreement with the government connectivity program, Federal Electricity Commission Telecommunications and Internet for Everyone (CFE TEIT), to provide mobile telephone and internet services in schools, healthcare facilities, and public areas in more than 60 remote communities.11

In early 2023, satellite company Globalsat announced that it would partner with Starlink to provide free internet services at 1,100 access points in remote areas in Mexico as part of a contract awarded by CFE TEIT.12 The arrangement, which is valid until December 2024, is expected to benefit 550,000 people.

In Mexico, service providers such as Telcel, Movistar, and AT&T 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.13 Pricing practices like zero-rating plans limit the diversity of content that users with limited financial means can access and have not been shown to reduce digital divides.14

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 to “halt the commission of crimes.”2

Although most of Mexico’s information and communication technology (ICT) 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. The IXP increases efficiency and reduces costs for Mexican internet service providers (ISPs) by helping to manage traffic across networks.4 In 2018, the Ministry of Communications and Transport and the Yucatán state government signed an agreement to build Mexico’s second IXP;5 it began operating in February 2021,6 following a local government transition and an extensive community-building and training process.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 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 regulations.1 IFT has moved to restrain the country’s dominant telecommunications companies in the recent past, including with a December 2020 resolution that imposed new financial restrictions on a leading company, América Móvil, that limited how much it could charge users 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 2022, the mobile internet service provider with the largest market share was América Móvil (65.95 percent), followed by AT&T (17.13 percent) and Telefónica-owned Movistar (8.29 percent).4 In the most recent annual report from IFT, published in December 2022, América Móvil also led the fixed-line broadband market (40.84 percent), followed by Grupo Televisa (25.86 percent), Megacable MCM (14.71 percent), and Grupo Salinas (14.59 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 and protect the industry from monopolistic practices. The Federal Economic Competition Commission (COFECE) is another regulatory body that, in 2021, was recognized by the Federal Judiciary (PJF) as the competent authority to regulate the markets for online search engines, social networking, and cloud computing services.2

However, under López Obrador, IFT and other independent bodies have become regular targets of government pressure that has included sizable budget reductions.3 López Obrador’s administration has also hindered regulatory bodies with bureaucratic delays. After the president declined to fill vacancies on the boards of IFT and COFECE in recent years, leaving them both without a functioning plenary, the bodies appealed to the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN).4 In November 2022, the SCJN ruled in favor of COFECE and ordered the executive branch to appoint commissioners;5 López Obrador complied by appointing three new commissioners.6 The IFT’s case remained pending by the end of the coverage period, and civil society organizations have demanded a prompt response from the SCJN.7 The president’s failure to name commissioners to the autonomous bodies has been considered detrimental to the institutions' independence and ability to function properly.8

Previously, a 2020 government proposal to merge IFT with two other regulators was indefinitely postponed after it was condemned by civil society for threatening the regulator’s independence.9 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.10 Though the president later decided against dissolving IFT, instead delaying any action until the next administration,11 he reiterated his support for disbanding INAI in April 2023 (see C6).12

Despite receiving some criticism in recent years for its decisions on antitrust measures and draft net neutrality guidelines,13 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).14

From 2019 to 2021, IFT was criticized for its Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines, which civil society actors claimed were an attempt to undermined net neutrality in Mexico (see B6).15 New guidelines went into effect in September 2021.16 In 2017, IFT was also criticized for authorizing América Móvil’s Telcel to exploit 60 megahertz of the 2.5 gigahertz spectrum band.17 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.18

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 internet 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 its requests. 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 12 removals of journalistic content in 2022.2

In April 2023, Supreme Court Judge Yasmín Esquivel Mossa filed a complaint against journalist Lourdes Mendoza, who had tweeted photos of Mossa vacationing in Canada accompanied by critical comments about the judge. Mossa asked a court to order the removal of the photos and the deletion of Mendoza’s Twitter account, on the grounds that her minor son appears in one of them and the comments allegedly “incite hatred.” The court ultimately ordered Mendoza and other journalists to remove or blur the photos to protect the identity of Mossa’s son, but did not force Mendoza to delete her account.3

In April 2022, during the previous coverage period, a Yucatán 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

Powerful actors have successfully had content removed by claiming it violates privacy regulations and the Federal Copyright Law (see B3). In February 2022, Rest of World reported on the activities of Spanish reputation management company Eliminalia in Mexico, where 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 its powerful clients, including businesspeople and politically connected individuals in Mexico. Of a list of 17,000 URLs that were reportedly targeted for removal on clients’ behalf between 2015 and 2019, more than 2,000 were identified for removal by clients based in Mexico.5

In one case, Eliminalia reportedly used dubious legal notices to force Mexican journalist Daniel Sánchez to remove a 2018 story he published in the outlet Página 66, which had detailed past links to corruption of a Mexican video surveillance firm, Interconecta, that the Campeche state governor had contracted with. Sánchez was obliged to remove the article after Eliminalia seemingly created a falsified article to launch a US-based copyright claim against him in January 2020.6 Sánchez’s investigation for Página 66 was reportedly one of 13 URLs that Grupo Altavista, the parent company of Interconecta, hired Eliminalia to remove in April 2019.7 In another case reported by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) in February 2023, former political candidate Miguel Ángel Colorado Cessa allegedly paid €9,000 to Eliminalia to remove news stories that linked him and his brother to the Mexican cartel Los Zetas.8

Facebook restricted 17,847 pieces of content between January and June 2022, including 46 items related to violations of electoral law and 17,801 items in response to Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS) reports of unsafe products.9 During that period, Mexico had the second highest number of Facebook content restrictions in the world, after South Korea.10 Between July and December 2022, Google reported receiving five government requests to remove content, three of which were for privacy and security and two for trademark violations.11

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 Mexico’s 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 SCJN 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

In November 2022, the First Chamber of the SCJN declared that the so called “right to be forgotten” was incompatible with standards for freedom of expression and access to information, ruling that the obligation to remove personal information about someone who has died from all digital media, established in Mexico City’s civil code, is unconstitutional.2

However, the 2020 reform of the Federal Copyright Law regarding intermediary liability negates many of the protections that the courts had 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 ($52) to 2,000 ($104) 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. Civil society organizations have criticized the changes for potentially promoting censorship online and endangering users accused of infringement.3

An April 2023 legislative proposal to create a Federal Cybersecurity Law contains several problematic provisions related to online content regulation.4 Among the provisions, Article 53 requires service providers, social media platforms, and other digital content hosts to comply with orders to "take down IP addresses, applications, domains, and Internet sites” within 72 hours of receiving notification from the “competent authority,” including a proposed National Cybersecurity Agency. The bill also introduces criminal penalties for broadly defined forms of online expression (see C2). Civil society organizations, such as Article 19 and SocialTIC, have criticized the bill for implementing censorship practices and promoting the militarization of cybersecurity.5

In recent years legislators have considered proposals to regulate social media platforms that would limit the transparency and proportionality of removals. A bill introduced in February 2021, for example, 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, impose fines for noncompliance, and establish other rules related to operations and content. 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.6

Civil society has criticized the bill for risking free expression, imposing regulatory burdens, and fostering indiscriminate censorship.7 Groups have also warned that fines associated with the bill could keep smaller platforms from operating and increase media concentration, and cautioned that it grants IFT arbitrary decision-making power over which platforms can operate and what content they can host.8

In March 2023, the Tlatelolco Lab, based at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), presented the "Decalogue of Rights of Users of Sociodigital Networks,” a proposal that outlines ten principles to regulate social media in Mexico. Among these points include the “right to a truthful environment on social media.”9 Civil society organizations Access Now and R3D criticized this provision for undermining freedom of expression and taking steps that could establish the state as the arbiter of truth online. Access Now and R3D also criticized the limited role for civil society in the creation of the Decalogue and called for opportunities for civil society to actively participate in ongoing legislative processes to regulate social media platforms.10

No proposal to regulate social media had passed by the end of the coverage period.

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 increasing 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, corruption, and organized crime.

A January 2020 study by the media freedom civil society organization 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 the state of Guanajuato has prompted local journalists to “[opt] for superficial coverage of the violence, limited to official declarations and anonymous testimony.”3

After digital journalist Heber López Vásquez was murdered in February 2022, several fellow journalists reported that it created a chilling effect on their own coverage. Before he was killed, López had reported on a local politician’s alleged corruption related to an infrastructure project in Oaxaca state. At least ten journalists said they were more afraid to report on the development project and other related misconduct following the murder, and one acknowledged that “self-censorship is the only thing that will keep you safe.”4

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, including during electoral periods.1 Under President López Obrador, coordinated online networks have been found to spread progovernment narratives and launch coordinated smear campaigns against the president’s perceived rivals.

Platforms regularly detect efforts to influence Mexico’s online sphere through coordinated inauthentic behavior. Between 2017 and 2022, Meta detected 13 coordinated inauthentic behavior networks originating in Mexico—the third most in the world after Russia and Iran—though Facebook described them as “less tactically sophisticated.”2 According to Meta, coordinated inauthentic behavior efforts are especially significant around electoral periods, and sometimes a network managed by a public relations or marketing agency may support two candidates for the same seat. During the previous coverage period, in June 2021, Facebook reported removing three Mexico-based networks of accounts for violating the platform’s policy on coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of that month’s gubernatorial elections.3 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 to be 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.4

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 and 19 percent of former president Felipe Calderón’s Twitter followers were inauthentic.5

Disinformation was also spread by state-linked actors for political purposes in the 2018 election. In April 2022, Animal Político 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.6

Online campaigns amplifying support for López Obrador and trolling his perceived rivals or users who question or criticize him have been mounted outside of electoral periods. In March 2023, Animal Político reported that pro-López Obrador accounts had disseminated more than 20,000 tweets in an online smear campaign against the recently elected president of the SCJN, Norma Lucía Piña Hernández,7 who has often ruled against López Obrador’s government in judicial decisions.8 That month, many tweets used the hashtag #PiñaMadrinaDeLosNarcos (#PiñaGodmotherOfTheNarcos) to make unsubstantiated links between Piña and drug trafficking.9

The following month, Animal Político reported on “Red Brolan,” a seemingly coordinated network of at least 23 YouTube channels, linked to the Brolan marketing agency, that spreads political narratives in favor of President López Obrador’s government. Videos posted to these channels often make accusations about López Obrador’s political opponents and critical journalists using unsubstantiated or manipulated evidence, such as one video that was slowed down to make an opposition congresswoman appear intoxicated. Though Red Brolan videos are supportive of López Obrador and his National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party, there is no evidence that the government or party have financed this network.10 Another April 2023 Animal Político article referenced videos on social media platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, that apparently utilized artificial intelligence–generated presenters to praise López Obrador and discredit his political opponents.11

Investigative reporting published by the Latin American Center for Investigative Journalism (CLIP) in November 2022 detailed apparent efforts by the López Obrador government to manipulate online discourse with public resources, amounting to an “official propaganda apparatus.”12 The InfodemiaMX platform, ostensibly a fact-checking initiative coordinated by the Mexican Public Broadcasting System and financed with public funds, has reportedly been used to present biased or false information on behalf of the López Obrador government and his MORENA party. In one example from August 2022, an InfodemiaMX program broadcast on social media was used to defend the government's position on a train infrastructure project, calling opposition to the project #MentirasEcologicas (#EcologicalLies).13 InfodemiaMX has its own website and publishes content on YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

CLIP’s report also details the "Who's Who in Lies" segment of President López Obrador’s morning press conferences, during which he supposedly calls out false information in the media while in many cases making false or misleading claims of his own. The news conferences are broadcast live on social networks, and received 11 million views across Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in July 2022 alone.14

In December 2021, during the previous coverage period, the Stanford Internet Observatory reported on a network of 276 accounts removed by Twitter that month. The network 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.15

Foreign actors have also spread disinformation in Mexico in recent years. A July 2022 investigation conducted by the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab and Animal Político reported on the existence of a supposed network of 114 websites, created in Venezuela between 2018 and 2021, to disseminate messages in support of President López Obrador, as well as disinformation about his rivals and foreign governments.16

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

According to a 2020 study conducted by the Autonomous University of Nuevo León (UANL) for UNESCO Mexico, the “vast majority” of media outlets rely on public advertising as a source of income, particularly in states where the number of private advertising contracts is declining. This financial dependence has created a perception of compromised editorial integrity, with 24.4 percent of journalists in the UANL survey indicating that their work is not conducted independently of the public authorities.4

Article 19 noted that 10 media and communication companies received 54.8 percent of the total official advertising budget in 2022, and that the remaining 45.2 percent was distributed to 399 other groups.5 In December 2022, the Chamber of Deputies approved a reform to the Social Communication Law, which regulates government spending on advertising. However, the reforms were criticized for again failing to establish clear and transparent rules for the allocation of public advertising funds.6 In April 2023, the Senate eliminated a provision that capped the public advertising spending of state and municipal governments at 0.1 percent of their annual budget.7 At the end of the coverage period, President López Obrador was considering whether or not to veto the removal of this cap.8

Digital outlets have worked to find alternative sources of funding. According to a report that was published in July 2021, 15 of the 19 digital local outlets surveyed (79 percent) were implementing paid content models or were planning to do so within three years.9

Though the 2014 Telecommunications Law established protections for net neutrality, IFT’s Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines,10 which went into effect in September 2021,11 allow ISPs to engage in the paid prioritization of traffic (see A5). The policy had been criticized by civil society members, who argued that it did not require ISPs to be transparent about their network management practices and would allow for discrimination against nonprofit organizations, entities with less funding, and content providers.12 In 2021, a group of civil society organizations presented a legal action against the Traffic Management and Internet Administration Guidelines, and there were no updates to the case as of May 2023.13

In April 2023, a MORENA legislator in the Chamber of Deputies proposed a reform that would regulate streaming platforms under the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law. Among other regulatory provisions, the proposal would subject streaming platforms to additional tax requirements.14

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

One example of these independent outlets is Lado B, which was created by freelancers and local journalists in 2011. Despite announcing a temporary pause on operations in February 2022, the outlet returned in July of that year to again “review the relationship between the press and power in Puebla.”3 Amapola, an outlet from Guerrero, questions the state’s narrative regarding criminal violence.4

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.5

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 December 2022, for instance, SPIN Taller de Comunicación Política alleged that President López Obrador made at least 101,155 false, misleading, or unprovable claims in the first 1,484 days of his term after fact-checking his daily press conferences.6

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 mobilize protests and to raise awareness about human rights abuses related to violence in the country.

In February 2023, President López Obrador’s attempt to introduce structural reforms that would weaken the National Electoral Institute (INE), known as “Plan B,” led to massive demonstrations in February 2023.1 Despite apparent efforts to stifle discourse ahead of the February 26 protests,2 people mobilized on social media platforms using the hashtags #ElINENoSeToca (#DoNotTouchTheINE) and #MiVotoNoSeToca (#DoNotTouchMyVote).3 In May and June 2023, the SCJN invalidated the Plan B reforms, ruling that Congress had not adhered to proper legislative procedure.4

For the last several years a sustained movement against gender-based violence has been organized on different online channels, leading to historic participation in street demonstrations and strikes.5 Feminist activists and collectives have used digital platforms to promote discussions about gender-based violence, building on hashtags such as #YoTambién (#MeToo), #MiPrimerAcoso (#MyFirstHarassment), and #SiMeMatan (#IfIAmMurdered). In April 2022, during the previous coverage period, 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, which circulated on social media.6 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 (#JusticeForDebanhi).7

Activism for internet freedom issues also occurs in Mexico. In March 2022, digital rights group R3D launched the #NoNosVeanLaCara (#DoNotSeeOurFaces) 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.8

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, B3, C2 and C6).

The judiciary is currently regarded as generally independent. Following the election of Norma Lucía Piña Hernández as the first woman president of the SCJN in January 2023, President López Obrador has voiced dissatisfaction with her appointment and the recent role of the judiciary,1 and supporters of López Obrador have targeted Piña with an online disinformation campaign (see B5). The former president of the SCJN, Arturo Zaldívar, had been viewed as a López Obrador ally.

Despite concerns about diminished autonomy under López Obrador in recent years, the judiciary has exhibited impartiality and ruled in favor of human rights online, as with the SCJN’s decision against the “right to be forgotten” in November 2022 and its invalidation of a biometric cell phone registry in April 2022 (see B3 and C4). In the latter ruling, 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 Although defamation was decriminalized at the federal level in 2007, state-level criminal defamation statutes persist.2

In June 2022, deputy Rafael Alejandro Micalco Méndez presented a bill in the Puebla legislature that would recriminalize defamation and slander in the state’s penal code.3 A group of civil society organizations, including the Puebla Journalists Network and the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), warned of the potential chilling effect the bill could have on freedom of expression and journalistic work, particularly for investigations related to acts of corruption, organized crime, and serious human rights violations.4 The proposal faced opposition in the Puebla legislature and was not adopted during the coverage period.5

Efforts to remove the crime of defamation from Yucatán’s state penal code stalled during the coverage period. In February 2022, a group of journalists spearheaded an initiative to decriminalize defamation in the state, citing concerns over freedom of expression.6 However, despite continued efforts by the journalistic coalition, the legislature had not yet decriminalized defamation as of November 2022.7

Legislation to criminalize hate speech, discrimination, terrorism, and misinformation at the federal and state levels has been proposed in recent years, though no proposals were passed by the end of the coverage period.8 The proposed Federal Cybersecurity Law (see B3 and C5), presented in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2023, introduces criminal penalties for overly broad forms of online expression. For instance, Article 78 of the bill broadly criminalizes online expressions that “incite or consist of terrorism, or advocate national, racial, sexual or religious hatred, or constitute discrimination,” in addition to actions that “systematically, automatically and intentionally misinform the population causing the individual or collective manipulation of people.”9 Criminal sanctions range from three to six years in prison, and fines of approximately $2,700 to $5,400 as of 2023.

The movement to criminalize the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images saw major developments in recent years. 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, which criminalizes the nonconsensual sharing of intimate images and punishes “digital violence.”10 It includes provisions for three-to-six-year prison sentences and fines of up to 90,000 pesos ($4,669) for those found guilty of digital violence as defined by the law.11 As of December 2021, all of the country’s 32 states had passed laws in line with the federal Olympia Law.12 Gender and digital rights organizations criticized a number of the state laws for being disproportionate, potentially prompting censorship, and lacking reparations for victims.13 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.”14 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 32 cases of judicial harassment against journalists in 2022 – an average of 2.6 journalists or media outlets targeted through civil or criminal proceedings for their reporting each month – with cases particularly concentrated in the state of Yucatán.1 Among the 32 cases, 15 (46.88 percent) were handled through civil processes, 9 (28.13 percent) through criminal proceedings, 4 through administrative actions, and 4 through electoral proceedings (12.5 percent each).

Article 19 has raised concerns that legal punishments for gender-based political violence – a pervasive issue in Mexico – could be used as an instrument of journalistic censorship.2 In April 2022, the INE initiated a sanctioning proceeding against journalist Erick Gutiérrez after he tweeted critical comments about Deputy Gabriela Sodi Miranda in November 2021. Sodi alleged that Gutiérrez committed online gender-based political violence against her. Gutiérrez challenged the decision from the INE, and, in August 2022, the Specialized Regional Chamber of the Electoral Tribunal of the Federal Judiciary ruled that he had not committed political violence.3

Although the resolution of Gutiérrez’s case protected freedom of expression, legal sanctions for gender-based political violence have been used to target other digital journalists. In Baja California Sur, four journalists were accused of gender-based violence for April 2021 publications in the digital outlets BCS Noticias and MetrópoliMx in which they claimed that the relative of a Labor Party (PT) deputy had improperly exploited her connections to become a candidate for state office and published a photo of the candidate posing for an adult magazine. After the case appeared to be administratively resolved with the INE, the Attorney General's Office (FGR) opened an investigation and, in September 2022, the journalists were criminally charged with the alleged crime of gender-based political violence, for which they could face up to six years in prison.4 Article 19 has emphasized the importance of protecting freedom of expression while preventing gender-based violence in Mexico.5

In recent years, digital journalists have also faced legal action unrelated to accusations of gender-based political violence. In April 2022, during the previous coverage period, 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.6 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.7

During the previous coverage period, 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 Torres, though videos of the arrest circulating on social media reportedly show Torres using excessive force.8

Online journalists continue to risk arbitrary arrest while covering protests, police abuses, or other newsworthy events. In April 2023, digital journalists Gabriel Aguilar Ay and Silvia Peraza Azueta were arbitrarily detained for approximately four hours after covering a traffic accident in the Quintana Roo state. One of the journalists had taken photos of the scene, and the other had begun a live broadcast, before both were detained by Cozumel municipal police.9 During the previous coverage period, in October 2021, photojournalists Erik Daniel Toxtle Nolasco and Brian Omar Toledo Chavarin of the 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 their cell phones (see C7).10

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

Score Change: The score improved from 3 to 4 because the government did not impose significant restrictions on encryption or anonymity for internet users during the coverage period.

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.

During the previous coverage period, in April 2022,1 the SCJN 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.2

The SCJN suspended the registry in June 2021 at the request of the IFT, which was to oversee the installation, operation, regulation, and maintenance of PANAUT.3 In its request, the IFT claimed that the registry’s mandate required the agency to take on a financial burden that could compromise its ability to fulfill its regulatory duties.4

Users would have been required to join the registry when purchasing a SIM card or activating a new prepaid mobile line. Telecommunications companies would have been required to collect user data, which would include fingerprints or iris recognition as well as the user’s name, address, phone number, nationality, and Unique Population Registry Code (CURP) number, and enter it into the registry. Telecommunications companies would have had two years to collect this data from existing customers. Customers who failed to hand over their data and documentation would have received heavy fines and had their mobile line permanently cancelled.5 The registry would have been made available to “authorities overseeing issues of security and justice” without a court order or other oversight requirements.6

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. High-profile abuses of digital spying technologies meant for law enforcement purposes continued to emerge during the coverage period, but they have not been thoroughly investigated by authorities.

The Mexican military is reported to be one of the world’s largest users of Pegasus spyware, which can surveil all activities on mobile devices with no apparent signs of a breach.1 Pegasus has been used to target those investigating government corruption and human rights abuses in Mexico.2 A joint investigation by Citizen Lab and the Mexican civil society organization R3D revealed that two human rights defenders, Jorge Santiago Aguirre Espinosa and María Luisa Aguilar Rodríguez, both working at the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (Centro PRODH), were targeted by Pegasus between June and September 2022. According to Citizen Lab, the alleged timing of the surveillance suggests that the military was involved in these cases, though it was not able to confirm this. At the time the spyware was apparently active on Aguirre and Aguilar’s devices, Centro PRODH had been investigating past human rights abuses committed by the Mexican Army and providing support for the relatives of those who were forcibly disappeared by the military.3

In October 2022, the #EjércitoEspía investigation, coordinated by several civil society organizations and media outlets, documented three additional cases of suspected military espionage using Pegasus. Human rights defender Raymundo Ramos and two journalists, Ricardo Raphael and one from the outlet Animal Político, were reportedly surveilled with Pegasus between 2019 and 2021.4 The evidence presented in the investigation, which includes forensic analysis by Citizen Lab, confirmed that the victims were targeted with zero-click exploits, which do not require any action from victims and are virtually undetectable.5 All three individuals had recently denounced human rights abuses by the Mexican armed forces, suggesting that the Mexican military is responsible for the illegal spying.6

In March 2023, the same organizations that produced the #EjércitoEspía investigation released new evidence about the surveillance of human rights defender Raymundo Ramos.7 Internal documents obtained from the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA) appeared to conclusively demonstrate that the military used Pegasus to spy on Ramos through a highly secretive “Military Intelligence Center” (CMI), which lacks any legal basis for spying on civilians. According to the investigation, the CMI operates under the command of military leadership and spied on Ramos in order to disrupt his journalistic investigation into the army’s human rights abuses.8

In May 2023, the New York Times reported that Alejandro Encinas, the country’s under secretary for human rights and a close ally of President López Obrador, had been targeted with Pegasus spyware. Encinas had recently investigated potential abuses by the military and has been publicly critical of the armed forces.9 In June, after the coverage period, the Washington Post published an investigation reporting that Camilo Vicente Ovalle, who coordinates a truth commission about Mexico’s Dirty War as part of Encinas’ office, was also targeted with Pegasus in the latter half of 2022.10

President López Obrador has denied the evidence presented by the organizations and the media outlets, repeatedly claiming that his government does not use Pegasus to spy on Encinas or other figures.11 After the October 2022 investigation was published, López Obrador dismissed claims that the government had spied on journalist Ricardo Raphael because “it would be a waste of time” to do so. He also claimed that the army does not spy, but rather does “intelligence.”12

In response to López Obrador's denials, civil society organizations called on the government to be accountable and transparent about its surveillance activities and accused the president of disseminating disinformation about their spyware investigation.13

Despite these revelations, authorities have been slow to investigate. In January 2023, the INAI ordered SEDENA to carry out a thorough search and provide information related to the contracts that the military signed with the company Comercializadora Antsua, the exclusive supplier of the Pegasus spyware in Mexico.14 Two months later, in March, federal lawmakers announced plans to create a commission to investigate the military’s use of spyware, even as López Obrador continued to deny or downplay the allegations.15

The government was first implicated in the use of Pegasus when the results of the Pegasus Project investigation were published in July 2021. 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.16 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.17 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.18

In November 2021, during the previous coverage period, 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.”19

Officials have access to other surveillance tools with interception capabilities. In April 2023, Citizen Lab reported that Israeli spyware vendor QuaDream had been contracted by several government clients, including Mexico, to provide surveillance technology.20 Like Pegasus, QuaDream is reportedly a zero-click exploit. Previously, in May 2020, three civil society organizations found 21 active international mobile subscriber identity–catchers (IMSI catchers), which can be used to intercept mobile data from all devices in the immediate area, in central Mexico.21 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 the deployment of cyberespionage firm Circles 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 2020.22 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.23

The proposed Federal Cybersecurity Law (see B3 and C2), presented in the Chamber of Deputies in April 2023, contains provisions that could expand the government’s surveillance of online activities. For example, Article 25 of the bill orders the cyber police to conduct monitoring and cyberpatrolling of the online sphere in order to prevent “any situation constituting a crime that could put the physical and/or patrimonial integrity of the inhabitants at risk.”24

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 SCJN 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

Beginning in March 2023 and through the end of the coverage period, the INAI, Mexico’s data protection authority and access to information body, was unable to function properly due to the lack of five-person quorum of commissioners. Despite a federal judge ordering the Senate to appoint a commissioner to at least one of the INAI’s three vacant seats,3 the Senate failed to do so at the end of May, after MORENA legislators accused the judiciary of interfering in its affairs.4 As of June, nearly 6,000 cases were awaiting resolution by the INAI.5

Amidst the deadlock in May, Human Rights Watch called on the government to appoint commissioners, emphasizing that the INAI’s inability to function left Mexicans vulnerable to potential abuses of their personal data.6 The Senate’s failure to appoint the INAI commissioners comes amid calls from López Obrador and his allies to dissolve the body entirely and broader efforts by the president to undermine independent regulatory bodies (see A5).7

In August 2023, after the coverage period, the second chamber of the SCJN ruled that the INAI could meet with only four commissioners until a five-member quorum is appointed, allowing it to begin processing outstanding cases.8

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.9 The 2016 SCJN ruling also clarified which authorities can access user data; it 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 SCJN ultimately ruled the registry unconstitutional in April 2022 (see C4).10 The database would have been accessible to authorities overseeing public security and justice.11

During the coverage period, Congress again moved to create a biometric database that could undermine the right to privacy. A new bill that the Senate will examine, which was approved by the Chamber of Deputies in March 2023, would empower the Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB) to create and manage a centralized biometric database, the National Registry and Identity System (SID).12 The SID would require individuals to give biometric information to the SEGOB while registering activities at the Civil Registry, meaning that citizens would effectively have no means to consent to the collection of their personal biometric data.13 Civil society organizations and some opposition lawmakers have raised concerns that the bill does not clearly specify which biometric data would be collected and which entities would have access to it, posing a risk to privacy and the protection of personal data.14

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 696 aggressions against journalists in 2022,2 making it the most violent year for journalists since the organization started tracking in 2007. These figures include 181 instances of intimidation and harassment, 151 threats, 48 physical attacks, and 12 murders of journalists in potential relation to their work. Of all reported attacks against the press, 196 (28.19 percent) occurred in the digital sphere, including online intimidation and harassment, digital threats, and attempts to hack journalists' accounts.3 Nearly 49 percent of the total attacks against journalists related to coverage of corruption and politics, while 27.59 percent were linked to security and justice issues.4

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) separately reported that 13 journalists, including digital reporters,5 were killed in 2022, making it the deadliest year on record for journalists in Mexico.6 During the coverage period, at least three journalists were killed in potential retaliation for their online reporting or activities, though a motive has not been confirmed in any of the cases.

In June 2022, Antonio de la Cruz was fatally shot by multiple attackers while in his car. De la Cruz worked as a reporter for the newspaper Expreso and did not typically cover politically sensitive topics for the outlet, mainly focusing on agriculture and the environment.7 However, according to media reports, de la Cruz had used Twitter to criticize the state and local government and had apparently been asked by authorities to remove critical tweets. Federal prosecutors opened an investigation into the case, including any potential links between the murder and de la Cruz's criticism of the government.8

In August 2022, journalist Juan Arjón López was found dead after he had been missing for several days. Arjón was the founder of the Facebook-based outlet A Qué Le Temes, which he used to report on local crime and politics.9 Authorities opened an investigation into whether Arjón's murder was related to his journalistic work, but its exact motive remains unknown. The narrative presented by the authorities has reportedly attempted to stigmatize Arjón, focusing on his multiple sources of employment.10

That same month, journalist Fredid Román was fatally shot by two assailants outside his home. Román was a veteran journalist who had worked for several outlets. According to reports, hours before he was killed, Román had published a column on Facebook that had raised concerns regarding the state's potential cover-up of the 2014 disappearance of 43 students and the work of the subsequent truth commission. Román criticized several national and regional officials in the piece.11 Despite an investigation, the motive for the killing remains unknown.12

During the previous coverage period, the CPJ reported that three journalists were killed in direct retaliation for their work. In January 2022, freelance photographer Alfonso Margarito Martínez Esquivel, who published photographs for digital and print news outlets, was murdered in Tijuana. According to prosecutors, the leader of a criminal gang ordered Martínez’s killing after mistakenly believing that he had taken photos related to the group. In December, two people were sentenced to 25 years in prison for conducting the murder, though the trial of the gang leader who allegedly ordered the murder remains ongoing.13

In February 2022, Heber López Vásquez, the founder and editor of the NoticiasWeb and RCP Noticias news websites, was killed by a group of at least two men in Oaxaca. Both NoticiasWeb and RCP Noticias report on news, politics, and crime on their Facebook pages. The day before he was killed, López had published an article on NoticiasWeb that accused a former municipal official of corruption and coercing voters; the official’s brother is one of two murder suspects in the case.14 As of January 2023, neither suspect had been tried.15

In March 2022, digital journalist Armando Linares López, co-founder and editor of the Monitor Michoacán outlet, was murdered in Zitácuaro. Monitor Michoacán had previously investigated alleged cases of corruption involving local authorities, and Linares had reported receiving death threats after another journalist at the outlet, Roberto Toledo Barrera, was murdered in January 2022.16 No one has been charged in connection with Linares’ murder, and Monitor Michoacán ceased operations in March 2022.17

Other forms of physical attacks against online journalists from security forces, politicians, and civilians were reported during the coverage period, as were online threats of violence. In February 2023, journalist Águeda Barojas Ontiveros, who runs the Facebook-based outlet Portal de la Noticia, received intimidating messages on social media from a profile featuring photos of armed men.18 In September 2022, Vicente Serrano, the director of digital outlet Sin Censura, received three threats online, including direct messages that mention murder and use homophobic language.19 In July 2022, journalist Marina del Carmen Morales Carvallo, who covers local government in Veracruz state, received social media messages threatening to “hunt [her] down” and stage a shooting at her office if she continued her work.20

In April 2023, an unknown individual set the car of Fernando Rodríguez González, the director of digital media Noticias en la Web, on fire in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila.21 The journalist had previously received threats before the property destruction, including one that referenced the June 2021 murder of Saúl Tijerina Rentería.

In February 2023, members of the Action and Reaction Police (PAR) intimidated Gloria Ruiz, the director of the news site 4pnoticias, and physically assaulted her bodyguards.22

In November 2022, Clever Rea, director of the digital outlet Reacción de Guerrero and a reporter for El Despertar de la Costa, was assaulted by police officers after he was arbitrarily detained in the Guerrero state. One officer reportedly hit Rea on the head with his gun, requiring him to receive three stitches at a hospital. According to Rea, the police officers mocked his work as a journalist.23

In June 2022, two journalists from the digital media outlet Paginabierta, Ronny Aguilar and Rodrigo Bastos, were physically assaulted and obstructed by police officers in Campeche. The journalists had been documenting apparent police abuses at an early-morning alcohol checkpoint in the city.24 The police demanded the journalists to leave, claiming they were not identified as press, and forcefully pushed them back.25

Online gender-based violence 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 2020.26 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 the websites, social media profiles, and posts of women activists, organizations, and collectives; and smear campaigns, extortion attempts, and nonconsensual dissemination of intimate content that similarly target women.27

In March 2023, Dianeth Pérez Arreola, an independent journalist and director of the digital outlet Brújula News, was attacked with a smear and doxing campaign on social media after she published articles documenting public advertising funds spent by the Baja California state legislature and the Mexicali City Council.28

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. Throughout 2022, Article 19 documented 3 DDoS and denial-of-service (DoS) attacks and 29 instances of unauthorized access against journalists and their outlets.2 In April 2023, for example, the feminist news site SemMéxico was hacked by right-wing extremists who successfully gained control of the outlet’s server. The extremist hackers, called the “1915 Team,” targeted the outlet for its feminist reporting, claiming to be “protectors of religion and the homeland.”3

In September 2022 the self-styled hacktivist group “Guacamaya” obtained millions of emails and military documents from Mexico's military.4 The exposed information, around six terabytes (TB), includes intelligence details and other sensitive information gathered from between 2016 and September 2022. The information contained in the leaked documents, shared only with journalists and researchers, has been used to support journalistic investigations in the public interest, such as the #EjércitoEspía investigation documenting the use of Pegasus spyware in Mexico (see C5).5

Guacamaya was reportedly able to exploit SEDENA’s server because the military failed to apply the necessary security patches, leaving highly sensitive information vulnerable for 11 months.6 In March 2023 Jesús "N", a lieutenant colonel, was arrested in relation to the hacking and charged for the "violation of military duties, in the form of loss of military information."7

Critical entities, including financial institutions, are also subject to hacking in Mexico. In March 2022, during the previous coverage period, Mexican bank Citibanamex was among a number of companies affected by a data breach of Argentine IT and software development company Globant.8 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 2020, the same user had offered a database of 60 million Telcel users. Others have offered similar databases from different public and private services in the country.9 Researchers believe the data was stolen by compromising the servers of either the companies or their providers.10

On Mexico

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  • Global Freedom Score

    60 100 partly free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    62 100 partly free
  • Freedom in the World Status

    Partly Free
  • Networks Restricted

  • Websites Blocked

  • Pro-government Commentators

  • Users Arrested