Mexico Country Report | Freedom on the Net 2018


Partly Free
Key Developments: 

June 1, 2017 - May 31, 2018

  • In efforts to reduce the digital gap and promote competition in the ICT sector, Mexico’s mobile wholesale access network began operating in March 2018 (see Availability and Ease of Access).

  • Digital rights groups raised the alarm about newly approved changes to the Federal Copyright Law, which would allow courts to order precautionary measures against content suspected of copyright infringement (see Blocking and Filtering).

  • Bots, trolls and fake accounts were active on social media platforms in the run-up to presidential elections in 2018, spreading disinformation and propaganda to promote or attack certain candidates (see Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation).

  • Despite revelations about Mexico’s use of digital spying technologies to target journalists, human rights lawyers, activists, and political figures, no significant advances were made to investigate these abuses (see Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity).

  • Mexico remained one of the most dangerous countries for journalists, and at least four digital reporters were killed during the past year. Physical and technical violence frequently targeted digital media covering sensitive stories such as crime, corruption, and human rights violations (see Intimidation and Violence and Technical Attacks).


While access has steadily improved, Mexico’s internet freedom environment declined due to prolific manipulation tactics that distorted online discussions ahead of the 2018 elections.

Mexico’s telecommunications reform has induced some changes in Mexico’s ICT market by reducing barriers for foreign investment and slashing prices for telecommunication services. The Red Compartida project began operating in March 2018, providing a wholesale wireless broadband network that is expected to boost competition and expand coverage to underserved areas. Nevertheless, Mexico still faces challenges in its quest to increase competition and reduce the digital gap between urban and rural populations.

While citizens continued to use digital tools to protest against impunity, corruption, and gender violence, online manipulation is widespread in Mexico’s digital sphere. During the 2018 election campaign, bots, trolls and fake accounts aggressively spread online propaganda and disinformation promoting or attacking certain candidates on social media. Verification initiatives sought to debunk the deluge of disinformation, which included fake polls and fake voting instructions.

High levels of violence against journalists continued to severely limit internet freedom. During this period, at least four digital reporters covering sensitive stories online were killed, and many more received death threats and intimidating messages online. Using the tense security situation and the war on drugs as justification, the government has increased its surveillance powers. Despite a series of revelations about the misuse of digital spying technologies in the country, no significant progress has been made in investigating these abuses. Moreover, a recent study published by Citizen Lab in September 2018 found that Pegasus spyware continued to operate in Mexico.1

Obstacles to Access: 

The implementation of the 2014 Telecommunications Law has brought tangible benefits for internet access in Mexico. A wholesale wireless network launched operations in March 2018, aiming to offer data capacity to other operators and expand coverage to underserved regions. Nevertheless, concentration is still high and the real-world impact of these changes in some parts of the country remains to be seen, as the country still suffers from a wide digital divide between urban and rural communities.

Availability and Ease of Access

Five years after introducing reforms to reshape the telecommunications industry, Mexico has noted some tangible improvements in internet connectivity, quality of service, and prices.2 Penetration rates have continued to increase steadily, notably in the mobile sector, which counted more than 50 million mobile internet subscriptions since the reform was approved.3

Telecommunications reforms promoted in 2013 sought to substantially reshape the telecommunications industry and increase access. The reform package seeks to develop a wholesale wireless network (Red Compartida) and backbone network (Red Troncal) to improve quality, affordability, and coverage of telecommunication services across the country. In March 2018, the consortium in charge of developing the Red Compartida project, Altán Redes, launched operations with a national coverage of 32 percent, reaching 36 million people in 11 states and 5.6 million towns with a population of less than 10,000.4 This network would offer data capacity to other operators and expand coverage to regions that lack services, with the ultimate goal of reaching more than 92 percent of the population.5

While Mexico’s mobile penetration still lags behind other countries in the region, the numbers have increased.6 In Mexico, some 80.7 million people are mobile phone users, and more than 80 percent own smartphones, according to a recent survey.7 Prices for certain broadband mobile packages have dropped by more than three quarters of their original price, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).8 The prevalence of smartphones is due in part to a decrease in prices for mobile phone use, the increasing availability of smartphones, and promotions that narrow the price gap between basic phones and smartphones.9

Despite initiatives to increase connectivity, the digital divide between urban and rural regions in Mexico remained significant, 86 percent of the 71.3 millions of internet users are in urban areas and only 14 in rural areas. In 2017, the states of Baja California, Ciudad de Mexico, Morelos and Aguascalientes observed the highest scores of internet users in rural areas 67.5, 62.4, 59.0 and 55.6, respectively, while Chiapas, Guerrero, Veracruz and Zacatecas registered the lowest with 24.1, 26.9, 33.0 and 34.5 percent.10

Such disparate connectivity rates are also evident in the relatively small percentage of internet users with broadband access. Although the number of Mexicans with fixed broadband subscriptions has increased over the past decade, growing from 2.7 percent in 2006 to 13.5 percent in 2017, Mexico still falls significantly below the broadband penetration rates of other OECD countries, which average 30.60 percent.11

While it is true that the number of users has increased, digital inclusion programs continued to face challenges in reducing the digital divide.12 Financial constraints have affected programs such as Connected Mexico (México Conectado), which seeks to bring broadband internet to low income populations free of charge.13 Connected Mexico would reach its sixth year with 110,000 internet access sites, which represents 42 percent less than the initial goal.14 This project has received criticism for prioritizing areas that already had internet access over places with no access.15 Organizations have also criticized the lack of a gender perspective in digital inclusion policies.16

Ethnic and linguistic divides are also significant. According to the latest records, 14 million indigenous people and farmers were disconnected.17 Civil society groups have complained that despite telecommunications reforms, current ICT policies do not guarantee effective access for marginalized communities.18 The first community service provider in Mexico, Indigenous Community Telecommunications (TIC), was at risk after a court denied its request for an exemption from paying for the radio frequencies it uses. In April 2018, a court ruled in favor of TIC, instructing the regulator to reconsider the requirement. After obtaining its license in 2016, the non-profit organization has been providing mobile phone and data services to more than 3,000 households in rural and indigenous communities for USD 2 per month.19

Restrictions on Connectivity

There were no recorded activities or public incidents related to government-imposed restrictions on ICT connectivity during this coverage period. Article 190 in the 2014 Telecommunications Law, however, authorizes the “appropriate authority” within the Mexican government to request the suspension of telephone service in order to “halt the commission of crimes.”20

Although most of the backbone infrastructure in Mexico is privately owned, the state-owned company Telecomm has taken on greater control of the infrastructure, after taking over fiber-optic infrastructure from the Federal Electricity Commission.21Mexico has only one internet exchange point (IXP), set up by KIO Networks in April 2014, which increases efficiency and reduces costs for Mexican ISPs by helping to manage traffic across networks.22 In April, the Secretariat of Communications and Transport and Yucatan state government signed an agreement to build the next IXP in Mexico23.

ICT Market

Mexico’s reforms have sought to improve the ICT market by reducing market dominance and barriers for investment. Under constitutional reforms to the telecommunications sector, companies that control more than 50 percent of the market areconsidered “preponderant” players and are subject to antitrust measures by the regulator.24 Despite some changes, however, the ICT market remained dominated by a few players.25

By the second half of 2017, América Móvil (Telmex) continued to dominate the fixed broadband market (62.4 percent), followed by Grupo Televisa (16.3 percent) and Megacable (8.5 percent). América Móvil (Telcel) also dominated the mobile broadband market (70 percent), followed by Telefónica (14.1 percent) and AT&T (14.1 percent).26

In a move reversing part of the antitrust measures against América Móvil, Mexico’s Supreme Court cancelled the “zero rates” imposed on the dominant company, which enabled competitors such as AT&T and Telefónica to use its network free of charge.2728By the end of 2017, in fulfilment of the Supreme Court’s decision, the regulator Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) established the interconnection fee rival companies will have to pay to América Móvil.29 Critics perceived this decision as a win for the dominant player against the telecom reform, and competitors such as AT&T and Telefónica have highlighted the effect this action will have on the low prices users have benefited from since the reform. By mid-2018, companies had not yet changed their prices as a result of this decision.30

In February 2018, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of Televisa, ordering IFT to revisit its 2017 finding that the company had “substantial power” in the pay-TV market.31 The regulator confirmed the reversal of this finding in March, thereby relieving the company from tougher regulation.32

Regulatory Bodies

As part of a 2013 constitutional reform, the government established a new autonomous regulatory agency known as the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) to increase transparency of media regulation.33 IFT has the legal mandate to act as an antitrust body, protecting the industry against monopolistic practices.

The most notable step IFT has taken was the declaring América Móvil and Televisa to be dominant companies. However, IFT has received criticism for its role in reversing some antitrust measures, and for complying with the Supreme Court decision to revoke the declaration of Televisa as a dominant company (See “ICT Market”). In 2017, it was also criticized for authorizing Telcel to exclusively exploit 60 MHz of the 2.5 GHz band.34 Associations such as the Telecommunications Law Institute (IDET) and the Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU) claimed 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.35

Limits on Content: 

Harassment and physical violence have encouraged a climate of self-censorship among journalists and online activists, although many continue to risk physical danger to write about crime and corruption. While citizens continued to use digital tools to protest against impunity and corruption, online manipulation continued to proliferate, especially in the run-up to the 2018 presidential and congressional elections.

Blocking and Filtering

No evidence has been documented that the government or other actors blocked or filtered internet any other ICT content. Social networking sites and international blog-hosting services are available in Mexico. Nevertheless, technical attacks against media outlets are increasing as a means to limit access to content (See “Technical Attacks”).

In April 2017, the Supreme Court of Justice declared blocking an entire website because of alleged copyright violations unconstitutional and considered it a disproportionate measure that violated freedom of expression.36

In April 2018, however, digital rights groups raised the alarm about approved changes to the Federal Copyright Law, which would allow courts to order precautionary measures against content suspected of copyright infringement. Digital activists decried the impact of this change on freedom of expression online, as courts would be able to order measures such as censorship of online content or seizure of equipment without providing proof that copyright violations have taken place.37

Content Removal

While the Mexican government does not systematically request the removal of online content from intermediaries, news sites, and hosting services, social media platforms and search engines recorded removal requests over the past year.

Facebook removals between July and December 2017 included more than 2,000 pieces of content related to a video of a shooting at a school in Monterrey, and 14 items that had been reported for defamation.38 Twitter registered 8 removal requests in the second half of 2017; according to the platform no content was withheld.39 In the second half of 2017, Google registered 9 removal requests for copyright, privacy and security, and fraud.40

Other reports pointed to users misusing the flagging system to report content on social media. In April, media outlet Aristegui Noticias denounced that while livestreaming the presidential debate and post-debate discussion on their Facebook page, banners appeared warning about “possible graphic content” and “sexually suggestive or partial nudity,” which affected their reach and views on the platform.41

Although there is no strong legislative framework on intermediary liability, existing legislation offers some protections from liability for ISPs in cases of copyright infringement.42 A ruling from the Federal Institute of Access to Information and Personal Data Protection (IFAI)43 in January 2015 threatened to introduce greater liability for search engines if they did not comply with requests to remove sensitive personal information from their search results, but the resolution was successfully challenged.44

Organizations have also raised concerns about the risk of so-called “right to be forgotten” requests being used to censor sensitive information in Mexico.45 According to an interview with the founder of Eliminalia, a company dedicated to eliminating negative content from the web, their clients doubled in Mexico between 2015 and 2017.46

Media, Diversity, and Content Manipulation

Online manipulation and disinformation campaigns have been a recurring phenomenon since the 2012 elections, and once again proliferated in the run-up to the 2018 presidential and congressional elections.47 Online trolls have targeted journalists, activists, human rights defenders, academics, or groups whose opinions have been critical of the government, political parties, or politicians. The use of bots to manipulate online debates has also been documented in several studies.48 False or misleading hashtags are often disseminated to undermine social protests online.49

During the 2018 election campaign, journalists and researchers documented how bots and “troll farms” were being used to spread online propaganda and disinformation to promote or attack certain candidates on social media.50 Commonly dubbed “Peñabots,” these automated accounts were used prolifically by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) during the 2012 election campaign, and recent studies have revealed how the party’s candidates continued to benefit from such networks ahead of the 2018 elections.51 However, it appeared that partisan bots and fake accounts were active in promoting a number of political parties in the 2018 campaign.52 Women candidates also reported smear campaigns against them with manipulated video and images, in some cases accompanied with discriminatory or sexualized content.53 At the same time, efforts to tackle disinformation becomes more difficult as these stories spread to closed platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, making them harder to track.54

As a result of these practices, public awareness about online manipulation and the spread of disinformation increased, spurring fact-checking initiatives such as Verificado 2018, which sought to counter these narratives by partnering with local and national media outlets. During four months in 2018, Verificado published more than 400 notes and 50 videos to debunk false news.55 One example of a message assessed by Verificado urged voters to check boxes for two candidates to ensure their vote against the third candidate prevailed – something which would actually nullify their vote.56

The climate of violence and harassment towards the media contributes to significant self-censorship in states heavily afflicted by violence; only in 2017, the NGO Article 19 documented 507 aggressions against journalists and 12 journalists killed, at least four of whom worked for online media.57 As a result, local media tend to refrain from reporting on stories about drug trafficking or drug-related violence (see “Violence and Intimidation”).

Economic constraints influence the diversity of media in Mexico. Scarce funding and a lack of interest in online advertising create challenges for individuals and nonprofits seeking to establish sustainable online outlets in Mexico. Reliance on public advertising renders independent media vulnerable to content manipulation or closure due to lack of funding, 58 although the former appears to be the more pernicious of the two trends. In Puebla, for example, independent media organizations say the state government uses a combination of state, municipal, and university advertising as a way to control the editorial independence of local media.59

In April 2018, Congress approved a “Social Communication Law” to regulate government expenses in advertising.60 However, critics of the law have contended that it does little to change the status quo, as it lacks clear rules for official advertisement spending and facilitates discretionary public advertising. Special rapporteurs of freedom of expression from the UN have asked legislators to reevaluate the law and to consult with civil society organizations.61

Despite the challenges, however, financially independent digital media outlets are appearing in Mexico, enriching the media ecosystem with alternative agendas that support human rights and the right to information.62 These independent outlets, such as Lado B, an outlet created by freelance and local journalists in Puebla, bring new voices to the public debate. Digital outlet Animal Político has more than a million followers on Facebook and Twitter and is successfully experimenting with alternative forms of financing.63

Articles 145 and 146 of the Telecommunications Law establish protections for net neutrality. However, net neutrality is a contentious issue due to commercial agreements that allow differentiated prices depending on the destination of internet connections. Operators such as Telcel, Movistar and AT&T, brought back the availability of zero-rating plans—where certain digital services like HBO, Netflix, WhatsApp, or other social networking sites do not count towards a customer’s data allowance.64The regulator was expected to present a draft policy on net neutrality in August 2018, and submit it for public consultation.65

Digital Activism

Digital media have continued to serve as an important forum for internet users in Mexico. The social media landscape in Mexico is very dynamic. Mexico has around 83 million Facebook users, 9 percent more than in January 2017. Some 20 million users have Instagram.66

Even in the face of cyberattacks, harassment, and physical violence, citizens make regular use of digital tools to raise awareness about human rights abuses related to violence in the country and to mobilize protests against gender violence, for example using the hashtag #YoTambien (MeToo), #MiPrimerAcoso (MyFirstHarassment) and #SiMeMatan (IfIAmMurdered). Increasingly, however, women who denounce abuses via online platforms face backlash in the form of threats or even physical violence (See “Intimidation and Violence”).67

On September 19, 2017 an earthquake deeply affected the Mexican states of Puebla, Morelos and Mexico City. In response to the lack of information and coordination, groups of citizens mobilized online via #Verificado19S (#Verified19S) to provide verified and updated information about shelter, food, equipment and other needs for victims.68

Violations of User Rights: 

Mexico continued to be one of the most violent environments in the world for online journalists and bloggers, and the government has used insecurity to justify increased surveillance. Despite a series of revelations about illegal surveillance practices in the country, no significant progress has been made toward investigating these abuses and bringing perpetrators to justice.

Legal Environment

The Mexican Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and privacy of personal communications. A constitutional reform in 2013 established internet access as a human right and guaranteed net neutrality. A Telecommunications Law was subsequently approved in July 2014, but in May 2016, the Supreme Court largely upheld controversial provisions that pose a risk to privacy (see “Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity”).69

Although defamation was decriminalized at the federal level in 2007, criminal defamation statutes continue to exist at the state level.70Article 19’s research identified 101 existing laws in the country that restrict freedom of expression.71 One example is Article 333 of the Penal Code in Chihuahua, which criminalizes those who, “for a profit or to cause injury, improperly produce or edit, by any technical means, images, texts or audio, which are totally or partially false or true.”72

In December 2017, the Chamber of Deputies approved a reform to the federal civil code to include electronic media in article 1916, which outlines what is considered to be “moral damage.” The amendment was pending discussion in the Senate. While some media denounced this as an open door to social media censorship, specialists contended that the changes to the code will not impact freedom of expression, which is still protected by article 1916 and the constitution.73

A controversial Internal Security Law enacted in December 2017 formalizes the armed forces’ engagement in domestic security functions.74 Several entities such as the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have expressed concerns about the law’s implications for human rights.75 The law empowers the armed forces to gather intelligence by “any legal means possible.” It also states that information gathered through compliance with this law will be considered of national security interest, and therefore restricted from public access.

Despite legislation intended to increase the security of journalists and human rights defenders, the government has had little success in deterring attacks on journalists, bloggers, and activists, in a country that ranks near the top in global surveys on impunity.76 The Law for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists, passed in 2012, established a new institutional body of government officials and civil society members in charge of protecting threatened human rights workers and journalists.77 However, this mechanism has suffered from lack of funding,78 and organizations have also denounced the lack of coordination between federal and state authorities, the lack of a gender perspective, the poor capacity to react to the various forms of violence, and prevailing impunity.79

Prosecutions and Detentions for Online Activities

While there were no documented cases of individuals prosecuted or sanctioned by law enforcement agencies on charges related to accessing information on the internet, online reporters continued to risk harassment and arrest while covering demonstrations or political events. In December 2017 for instance, the Attorney General's Office of Mexico City reported that it had initiated an investigation after receiving a complaint from a journalist who was arbitrarily detained and beaten by police when he was trying to record an event with his cell phone camera.80

Lawsuits have also been filed in response to critical reports published online. In February 2018, a mayor filed a criminal complaint for "attacks against honor" against the digital outlet, after the outlet republished a report on alleged irregularities of several companies linked to the mayor.81

Surveillance, Privacy, and Anonymity

Little progress has been made in thoroughly investigating illegal surveillance practices in the country, after a series of revelations exposed the abuse of digital spying technologies intended to investigate criminals. Using the tense security situation and the war on drugs as justification, the government has continued to expand surveillance powers with little accountability and oversight. A new Internal Security Law notably enables the military to carry out intelligence activities by “any legal means possible,” raising further concerns about military intervention in communications and information gathering in an opaque legal environment (see “Legal Environment”).

In August 2017, Citizen Lab and Mexican partner organizations had documented at least 21 cases of journalists, human rights lawyers, activists, and political figures being targeted with the spying software Pegasus. The software, developed by the Israeli company NSO Group, is sold exclusively to governments.82 Attacks have especially targeted those investigating government involvement in corruption or human rights abuses.83 The report by Citizen Lab concluded that NSO’s government-exclusive espionage tools may have been used by a government entity on behalf of interests other than national security or fighting crime.84 Evidence collected since 2011 has shown that the Mexican government spent at least $80 million on such spyware across at least three security agencies.85

Civil society and several international human rights organizations, as well as experts from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations, called on the government of Mexico to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of illegal spying.86 However, human rights groups criticized the fact that the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was not the best equipped to investigate the matter, given that revelations also pointed to its involvement in the purchase of spyware.87 In May 2018, a judge ordered the PGR to investigate with due diligence and to accept proof submitted by the alleged victims of Pegasus.88

Previous reports also revealed that Mexico was the biggest client of the surveillance company Hacking team, which had signed more than 14 contracts with various state and federal agencies. Civil society organizations argued that these contracts were illegal because many of the agencies involved lacked constitutional or legal authority to conduct surveillance or espionage.89 The media outlet Animal Politico accused the state government of Puebla of using Hacking Team products to target the political opposition and journalists.90

The Mexican government has used the poor security situation in the country as an excuse to dramatically increase surveillance. The 2014 Telecommunications Law expanded on and partially replaced previous legislation that increased surveillance and allowed for real-time geolocation. In May 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that requirements for data retention and real-time geolocation included in the 2014 Telecommunications Law were constitutional. Under that law, Article 189 forces companies to provide users’ geolocation among other communications metadata to police, military, or intelligence agencies in real time. Reforms to the National Code on Criminal Procedure, published on June 17, 2016, now require a judicial warrant for government entities to use geolocation, save for some exceptional cases, such as kidnapping investigations when a person’s life or physical integrity is in danger.91

Article 190 of Telecommunications Law similarly requires providers to maintain records of their users’ metadata for a period of two years, and grant security agencies access to metadata at any time.92 Digital activists have argued that such provisions contradict international human rights standards, in particular the right to privacy. 93 However, the ruling did establish the need for a judicial warrant to access historical metadata.94 The Supreme Court ruling also provided some clarification as to which authorities can access said user data, notably the Federal Prosecutor, Federal Police, and the authority directly in charge of applying and coordinating the National Security Law.

Government requests to social media companies for information regarding their users increased during the coverage period. Between July and December 2017, Facebook received 1,084 (up from 938 in the previous reporting period) requests from the Mexican government for information related to 1,944 users and accounts; 902 of the requests were associated to legal processes. In 76 percent of the cases, Facebook released some information.95 During the same period, Twitter received 21 requests for information related to 33 accounts, where Twitter provided information on 48 percent of the cases.96 Google received 219 requests from the Mexican government for data on 375 users or accounts. The company produced information in 54 percent of such cases.97

Intimidation and Violence

Threats and violence from drug cartels, members of local governments, and other actors have continued to put journalists’ lives at risk and curtail the safe practice of journalism. In 2017, Reporters Without Borders declared that Mexico, and particularly the state of Veracruz, remained the most dangerous country in Latin America for journalists and one of the most dangerous in the world. As of May of 2017, it ranked 147 out of 180 countries.98

At least four digital reporters were killed during the coverage period of this report. Carlos Domínguez Rodríguez, a critical reporter and columnist for the digital outlets Noreste Digital and Horizonte de Matamoros, was stabbed to death on January 15, 2018.99 Esqueda Castro, who was a freelance photographer for local news websites had received threats prior to his murder in October 2017.100 The journalist and social media commentator Pamela Montenegro was shot dead in February 2018.101 Another victim in March 2018 was Leobardo Vázquez Atzin, who wrote about regional crime and corruption on a dedicated Facebook page.102

Physical attacks against online reporters and online death threats were frequently reported during this period.103 The NGO Artículo19 reported 96 online aggressions against journalists in 2017. They also reported that aggressions against online media surpassed the number of aggressions towards print media.104 They also documented that from the 1,986 aggressions against journalists over the past five years, 8 percent were presumably committed by organized crime and 48 percent by state workers.

Online gender-based violence has become a critical problem in the country, affecting women journalists, politicians, feminists and organizations. Organizations have documented the viral hate attacking women who denounce any type of violence using social media, organized efforts to take down websites and social media profiles and to delete posts from women activists, organizations and collectives, as well as smear campaigns, extortion, and dissemination of intimate content. All of these aggressions disproportionately target women online, affecting their right to freedom of expression and access to information, to privacy and to intimacy.105

Technical Attacks

Technical attacks have become a central tactic in attempts to suppress freedom of expression in Mexico, and perpetrators do so with relative impunity.106 The ongoing threat of Distributed Denial-of-Service (DdoS) attacks has led outlets to enlist the help of projects like Deflect, a system developed by, a Canadian nonprofit organization protecting websites of human rights organizations and independent media publications.107 The techniques involved in these attacks range from DdoS attacks, hijacking, and malware infections.108

Journalists and activists have frequently reported cases of digital surveillance and cyberattacks, including DdoS attacks and malicious software, often in retaliation for coverage of corruption or human rights-related issues:

  • On October 11, 2017, the NGO Borde Político denounced a cyberattack targeting its website just after launching a new legislative assessment platform that scored the work of senators. According to the director of Borde Político, the attack eliminated the database that had taken them three months to build.109

  • Oraculus, a website focusing on the 2018 elections, reported that it was attacked ahead of the vote on July 1. Users were unable to access content on the site, including election predictions polls.110

In a context of distrust due to the recent revelations of illegal surveillance practices (see “Surveillance, Privacy and Anonymity”), a National Cybersecurity Strategy introduced in 2017 sparked concerns among digital rights activists who highlighted the lack of control or transparency mechanisms within the strategy.111


1 CitizenLab, “HIDE AND SEEK: Tracking NSO Group’s Pegasus Spyware to Operations in 45 Countries,” September 18, 2018,

2 Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT), “Telecommunications in Mexico. Three Years After the Constitutional Reform,” June 2016,

3 OCDE, “Estudio de la OCDE sobre telecomunicaciones y radiodifusión en México 2017,” 2017,

4 Claudia Juárez Escalona, “Cobertura de Red Compartida rebasará expectativa,” El Economista, December 13, 2017,; “Red Compartida arranca con 32% de cobertura y 8 mil 100 mdp invertidos,” El Financiero, March 21,

5 “Firman contrato para desplegar Red Compartida de telecomunicaciones en México,” EFE, January 24, 2017,

6 Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI), “En México 71.3 millones de usuarios de internet y 17.4 millones de hogares con conexión a este servicio” [In Mexico 71.3 million Internet users and 17.4 million households with connection to this service], National Survey on Availability and Use of Information Technologies in Households (ENDUTIH), February 20, 2018,

7 “Smartphones, los favoritos para conectarse a internet en México,” El Financiero, May 17, 2018,

8 OECD, “Mexico should continue its overhaul of telecoms and broadcasting,” August 31, 2017,

9 “Precios de telefonía móvil, de los más bajos en 1T16” [Mobile telephone prices, the lowest in Q1 2016], El Financiero, April 14, 2016,; Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones, “Por 14 quincenas consecutivas el Índice de Precios de Comunicaciones se mantiene a la baja,” January 29, 2018,

11 OECD, “Historical time series, fixed and wireless broadband penetration. Q2 2017,” OECD Broadband Portal, November 2017,

12 José Merino and Mariano Muñoz, “México Conectado: más internautas, mismas brechas” [Connected Mexico: more internet users, same gaps], Horizontal. mx, January 25, 2017,

13 Carla Martínez, “México Conectado, con recorte de hasta 80%” [Connected Mexico, with a budget cut of 80%], El Universal, September 12, 2016,

14 Claudia Juárez Escalona, “México conectado cerrará sexenio con 106,000 sitios,” El Economista, February 7, 2018,

15 Juan Ortiz Freuler, “¿Internet para quién y para qué?” Animal Político, December 1, 2016,; See also: “’México Conectado' queda blindado hasta 2019,” El Financiero March 2, 2018,

16 Web Foundation, “New research: How is Mexico advancing women’s online access?” April 5, 2018,

17 René Cruz González, “Sin acceso a Internet, más de 14 millones de campesinos e indígenas” [Without access to the Internet, more than 14 million peasants and indigenous people], MVS Noticias, March 21, 2016,

18 "Organizaciones de la sociedad civil mexicana en IGF 2016 denuncia graves violaciones a derechos humanos" [Mexican civil society organizations in IGF 2016 denounce serious violations of human rights], Enjambre Digital, December 5, 2016,

19 Jacobo Nájera & Giovanna Salazar, “The first mobile phone network for indigenous communities in Mexico is under threat,” Global Voices (blog), January 24, 2018

20 Artículo 189-190 de Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión,”

21 Peralta, “Telecomm venderá conectividad de fibra óptica en 2015” [Telecomm will sell fiber optic connectivity in 2015], Expansión, December 11, 2014,

22 Julio Sánchez Onofre, “Primer IXP in Mexico, una realidad,” El Economista, April 30, 2014,; See also: “Inauguración del primer IXP mexicano,” [Inauguration of the first IXP] April 30, 2014,

23 IDET, “IXP, el conmutador invisible,” May 22, 2018,

24 Alejandro Madrazo, “Telecommunications: Mexico's New Reform,” Americas Quarterly, Summer 2013,

25 Adrián Arias, "Monopolios mantienen su dominio en telecomunicaciones" [Monopolies maintain their dominions within the telecommunications sector], Crónica, April 16, 2017,; The Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU), “Sector Convergente -Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión en el Marco de Revisión de la Preponderancia [Convergent Sector- Telecommunications and Broadcasting within the framework of Preponderance Revision], 2016,

26 Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), “Tercer Informe Trimestral Estadístico 2017” [Third quarterly statistical report 2017], March 2018,

27 Reuters, “America Movil’s network fees may cost rivals millions: AT&T,” Business Insider, October 26, 2017

28 Erick Zuñiga, “Slim vence a la reforma en telecom: IFT pone fin a tarifa cero,” Forbes, November 2, 2017,

29 “Mexico regulator says America Movil can charge competitors for calls,” Reuters, November 3, 2017,

30 “Slim vence a la reforma en telecom: IFT pone fin a tarifa cero,” Forbes, November 2, 2017,

31 Miriam Posada, “SCJN admite incorformidad de Televisa sobre resolución de IFT,” La Jornada, February 20, 2018,

32 “UPDATE 1-Mexico regulator decides in Televisa's favor on pay TV issue,” Reuters, March 23, 2018,

33 Juan Montes, “Mexico Telecoms Reform Bill Advances,” The Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2013,

34 Carla Martinez, “Espectro autorizado a Telcel no afecta la competencia: IFT” [The spectrum authorized to Telcel does not affect competition: IFT], El Universal, May 4 2017,

35 Ernesto Piedras, "Empoderando más al preponderante" [Empowering the preponderant], El Economista, May 10, 2017,

36 Diana Lastiri, “Government can’t block web pages by copyright: Court,” El Universal, April 19, 2017,

37 Timothy Vollmer, “Mexican Senate passes changes to copyright law that would censor content online,” Creative Commons, April 27, 2018, ; “Senado aprueba reforma a Ley de Derecho de Autor; permite la censura en internet, acusan organizaciones,” Animal Politico,April 26, 2018,

38 Facebook, Information requests in Mexico, January 2017-June 2017 and July-December 2017,

39 Twitter, “Mexico,” Transparency Report, January 2017 – June 2017,

40 Google, “Transparency report government removals,” January 2017-June 2017

41 “El extraño mensaje en Facebook durante transmisión del #DebateEnAristegui,” Aristegui Noticias, April 23, 2018,

42 Jose Camarena, “WILMAP: MEXICO,” The Center for Internet and Society, Stanford Law School,

43 This was the name of the institute at the time of the ruling. However, in May 2015, the institute changed its name to the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information, and Personal Data Protection (INAI).

44 “Inicia IFAI procedimiento para sancionar a Google México,” Aristegui Noticias, January 27, 2015,; “¡Ganamos! Tribunal anula resolución del INAI sobre el falso «derecho al olvido»” [We won! Court overturns INAI’s resolution on the false “right to be forgotten”], August 24, 2016,

45 “Derecho al olvido en internet: ¿un derecho, censura o un redituable negocio en México?” Animal Político, September 23, 2016,

46 Artículo 19, “Democracia simulada, nada que aplaudir: informe anual 2017 de Article 19,” March 20, 2018,; See also:

47 Eva Salgado Andrade, “Twitter en la campaña electoral de 2012” [Twitter in 2012 Mexican electoral campaigns], Desacatos, May-August 2013,; Sopitas, “Así funciona el millonario negocio de las Fake News en México” [This is how it works the millionaire business of fake news in Mexico”, Sopitas, April 5, 2017,

48 Pablo Suárez-Serrato, Margaret E. Roberts, Clayton A. Davis, Filippo Menczer, "On the influence of social bots in online protests. Preliminary findings of a Mexican case study," Cornell University Library, September 27, 2016,; See also: Steven Melendez, “To see the future of social media manipulation in politics, look to Mexico” Fast Company, February 2, 2018

49 Signa Lab, "Battle of the Hashtags: Mapping the Online Conversation Surrounding Mexico's Gas Prices," Global Voices, February 15, 2017

50 “Mexico election: Concerns about election bots, trolls and fakes,” BBC, May 30, 2018,

51 “#ElectionWatch: abajo los bots de papeletas,” Animal Político, June 13, 2018,

52 “México: los "bots", "trolls" y otros trucos de manipulación en internet que amenazan las próximas elecciones presidenciales,” BBC, May 30, 2018,

53 Interview with Luchadoras on the Political gender and technology based violence monitoring exercise

54 “In Mexico, fake news creators up their game ahead of election,” Reuters, June 28, 2018,

55 Verificado 2018, “Hasta luego, Verificado 2018,” July 9, 2018,

56 Verificado 2018, “Tras los cambios del INE para marcar las boletas, surgen imágenes falsas sobre cómo votar,” June 12, 2018,

57 Emir Olivares, “Ambiente adverso para periodistas en gobierno de Corral: Articulo 19,” March 20, 2018 ”; See also: “Democracia simulada, nada que aplaudir: informe anual 2017 de Article 19”, Artículo 19, March 20, 2018,

58 Alianza Regional, “México,” in Control estatal de los medios de comunicación [State control of media], May 3, 2015, 57-60,

59 Ernesto Aroche, Editor, Lado B, Personal interview on May 10, 2017.

60 “La Corte ordena al Congreso emitir ley que regule el gasto en publicidad oficial”, Animal Político, November 15, 2017,

61 “Reevalúen ley sobre #PublicidadOficial, piden ONU y CIDH a legisladores,” Aristegui Noticias, April 24, 2018,; “Ley Chayote viola libertad de expresión, no hay reglas claras en publicidad oficial: Medios Libres,” Animal Político, April 26, 2018, ; R3D, “Colectivo #MediosLibres exige al Congreso regular la publicidad oficial con transparencia,” February 8, 2018,

62 For 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.

63 Tania Lara, “Popular Mexican news site Animal Politico seeks to eliminate dependence on government advertising,” Journalism in the Americas Blog, Knight Center at the University of Texas Austin, April 30, 2013,; Daniela Bermúdez, “Animal político, un sitio basado en contenido en lugar de clics”, El Economista, June 18 2016,; Animal Político, crowdfunding campaign,

64 R3D, “Se profundizan ofertas de zero rating en México; el IFT sigue en silencio,” May 17, 2017,; See also: Antonio Cahun, “Telcel reacciona a la competencia y trae de vuelta las redes sociales ilimitadas a sus planes Max Sin Límite,” Xataka, May 16, 2017,

65 “Lineamientos del IFT sobre Neutralidad de la Red saldrán a consulta en agosto,” El Economista, May 30, 2018,

66 “Los usuarios de redes sociales en México aumentan un 13%,” Expansión, March 1, 2018,

67 Luchadoras, “La violencia en línea contra las mujeres en México,” November, 2017,

68 Gisela Pérez de Acha, “How to Hack an Earthquake,” MozFest, February 27, 2018. See also: “Tecnología, datos y participación ante el sismo en México,”SocialTIC, September 27, 2017,

69 “El Supremo mexicano avala la retención de datos de los usuarios” [Supreme Court ratifies retention of user data], El País, May 6, 2016,

70 Commission on Human Rights, Congress General of the United States of Mexico, Gaceta Parlamentaria, Número 3757-VIII[Parliamentary Gazette, No. 3757-VIII], Thursday April 25, 2013,; See also: Committee to Protect Journalists, Thomson Reuters Foundation and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, “Mexico” in Critics Are Not Criminals: Comparative Study of Criminal Defamation Laws in the Americas, March 2016,

71 Artículo 19, “Democracia simulada, nada que aplaudir: informe anual 2017 de Article 19,” March 20, 2018, p.40,

72 Código Penal del Estado de Chihuahua [Penal Code of the State of Chihuahua], updated June 13, 2016,; See also: Gerardo Cortinas Murra, “Artículo 333,” El Diario, May 2, 2016,; Erendira Aquino, “Difamación, antimemes y los delitos contra la libertad de expresión que siguen vigentes en México,” Animal Politico, January 23, 2018,

73 “Aprobaron los diputados la censura en redes sociales,” Forbes México, December, 2017,; See also:

76 Committee to Protect Journalists, “Getting Away with Murder: CPJ’s 2017 Global Impunity Index spotlights countries where journalists are slain and killers go free,” October 31, 2017, See also: Juan Arvizu, “Impunes 99.7% de los delitos a periodistas” El Universal, April 2, 2017,

77 Leah Danze, “Mexico’s Law to Protect Journalists and Human Rights Activists Remains Ineffective,” Latin America Working Group, June 30, 2013,

78 Espacio de OSC, “Mecanismo Federal de Protección a DDHH y periodistas sin respaldo financiero ni voluntad política,”, July 28, 2015, See also: “CNDH pide presupuesto y personal suficiente para el Mecanismo de Protección a periodistas y defensores,” November 2, 2017; Ana Langner, “Bajan recursos para proteger a periodistas,” El Economista, January 14, 2018

79 “Protección integral para personas defensoras de derechos humanos y periodistas: La deuda del Estado mexicano,” Espacio OSC, July 26, 2017,

80 “Reportero es detenido y agredido por policías de la SSP-CDMX; la PGJ capitalina abre investigación” Sin embargo, December 30, 2017,

81 Manu Ureste, “Alcalde de Zitácuaro denuncia a diario digital por una nota que señala irregularidades por 180 mdp,” Animal Político, February 13, 2018, ; See also:

82 Citizen Lab, “RECKLESS IV: Lawyers for Murdered Mexican Women’s Families Targeted with NSO Spyware,” August 2, 2017,

83 Citizen Lab, “RECKLESS EXPLOIT: Mexican Journalists, Lawyers, and a Child Targeted with NSO ”Spyware”” June 19, 2017,

84 Citizen Lab, “Bitter Sweet: Supporters of Mexico’s Soda Tax Targeted With NSO Exploit Links,” February 11, 2017,

85 Azam Ahmed and Nicole Perlroth, “Using Texts as Lures, Government Spyware Targets Mexican Journalists and Their Families,” The New York Times, June 19, 2017,; Sofía de Robina Castro & Pepe Flores, “#GobiernoEspía: 40 días después” [#SpyGovernmen: 40 days After], R3D, July 28, 2017,

86 “U.N. experts seek halt to use of spyware in Mexico and want full probe,” Reuters, July 19, 2017,; See also:

87 “PGR compró software de espionaje Pegasus en 32 mdd, revela contrato,” El Universal, June 29, 2017,; SocialTIC, “Comunicado: Urge intervención de expertos ante nulos progresos en investigación sobre #GobiernoEspía,” February 20, 2018

88 R3D, “Juez federal ordena a la PGR admitir pruebas de víctimas en la investigación sobre #GobiernoEspía,” May 28, 2018,

89 For more information about the revelations of Hacking Team’s operations in Mexico see: Julio Sánchez Onofre, “Vulneración a Hacking Team confirma abuso de espionaje en México,” [Breach of Hacking Team confirms abuse of espionage in Mexico] El Economista, July 6, 2015,; See also: Daniel Hernandez and Gabriela Gorbea, “Mexico is Hacking Team’s Biggest Paying Client -- By Far,” Vice News, July 7, 2015,

90 Ernesto Aroche, “El gobierno de Puebla usó el software de Hacking Team para espionaje político,” Animal Politico, July 22, 2015,

91 Código Nacional de Procedimientos Penales, updated June 17, 2016,

92 Artículo 189-190 de Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión.

93 Global Voices, “Suprema Corte en México valida retención de metadatos y geolocalización de Ley Telecom,” [Supreme Court of Mexico validates data retention and geolocation of the Telecom Law], May 6, 2016,; R3D, “La SCJN y la #LeyTelecom: Lo malo, lo bueno, lo absurdo y lo que sigue” [The SCJN and Telecom Law: the bad, the good, the absurd, and what comes next], May 5, 2016,

94 Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN), “Inviolabilidad del contenido de las comunicaciones y de los datos que permitan identificarlas: segunda sala,” May 4, 2016,

95 Facebook, “Mexico”, Global Government Requests Report, January-June 2017,

96 Twitter, “Information Requests Mexico,” Transparency Report, January-June 2017,

97 Google, “User Data Requests – Mexico,” Transparency Report, July-December 2017,

98 Reporters Without Borders, World Classification 2017April 26 2017,; See also:

103 See for example: Álvaro Delgado Gómez, “Usted está muerto, dice una voz. Ahora amenazan mediante grabaciones” [You´re dead, says a voice. Now criminals threaten using recordings], Proceso, August 25 2016,; ARTICLE 19, “Continúan las agresiones contra periodistas en Yuriria, Guanajuato” [Attacks on journalists continue in Yuriria, Guanajuato], May 7 2017,

104 Article 19, “Democracia simulada: Informe 2017,” March 20, 2018,

106 “Aumentan los ataques digitales contra medios de comunicación en México: Google” [Digital attacks against journalists and media on Mexico are on the rise: Google], Animal Político, October 14, 2016,

107 Jacobo Nájera, “Sobrevivir a los ataques de denegación de servicio distribuido” [How to survive DDoS attacks], Enjambre Digital, March 25 2017,

108 Jacobo Nájera, Enjambre Digital. Personal Interview on May 2, 2017.

111 “Estrategia Nacional de Ciberseguridad” November, 2017; For reactions see also: R3D, “Expertos consideran incongruente la estrategia de ciberseguridad por falta de controles a la vigilancia estatal”, August 2017,; Julio Sánchez, “Estrategia Nacional de Ciberseguridad arranca con desconfianza por espionaje,” El Economista, August 7, 2017,