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Mexican social media plan violates North America trade deal, industry says

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: The Twitter and Facebook logos along with binary cyber codes are seen in this illustration

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A Latin American social media industry group that includes Facebook and Twitter said a reform in Mexico would violate an international trade pact, in swift backlash to a draft bill that seeks to regulate social media platforms.

The proposed amendment to the federal telecommunications law would create unjustified trade barriers in breach of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the group said in a statement shared with Reuters late on Monday.

The reform, drafted by Ricardo Monreal, who leads President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador's National Regeneration Movement (MORENA) party in the Senate, would require social media networks, including Facebook and Twitter, to "request authorization" from the IFT, Mexico's telecoms regulator, in order to continue operating in the county.

The Latin American Internet Association (ALAI) said in its statement that the requirement puts "unjustified trade barriers that are not required in the U.S. or Canada, generating legal uncertainty and limiting the cross-border flow of data."

The group said it expressed its concerns about the initiative to Monreal.

In the draft bill, Monreal said the reform would not violate USMCA because it is intended to regulate the actions of the social media platforms "with regard to content related to freedom of expression, which does not mean invading the sphere of free trade."

The legislation, which has not been officially proposed, would also grant the IFT oversight in establishing a framework for the suspension and elimination of accounts on social networks in a bid to protect "freedom of expression."

Representatives for Facebook and Twitter declined to comment on the legislation.

The draft bill comes amid growing calls for regulation of social media companies from some governments around the world after the platforms censored or banned former U.S. President Donald Trump due to concerns he could fan violent unrest following the storming of the U.S. Capitol in January.

Lopez Obrador was among leaders who spoke out against platforms that suspended Trump's accounts, saying the Statue of Liberty was "green with anger" and vowing to bring the issue of free speech restriction on social media to the G20.

(Reporting by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Dan Grebler)

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