Monday, February 12, 2018

Rights organizations, journalists criticize online hate speech bill in Honduras (Feb. 12, 2018)

A new Cybersecurity bill in Honduras aims to regulate hate and discriminatory speech on the internet and social media, reports El Heraldo. The proposal submitted earlier this month by a Partido Nacional lawmaker, aims to force internet providers to police speech considered to be hateful, insulting, threatening or incitement to violence, reports El Confidencial. It was approved last week in a first debate in Congress and must now pass two more votes in order to become law, according to La Prensa.

But activists and opposition politicians say the proposal would effectively gag criticism of the government, reports Global Voices.

The Committee to Protect Journalists, along with more than 50 international and local digital rights organizations and media outlets called on lawmakers to reject the proposal, which would regulate online speech. And the national journalists association criticized the measure as a violation of freedom of expression, reports La TribunaThe Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada called on lawmakers to suspend the discussion last week, reports La Prensa

Under the proposed law, internet service providers, online platforms, and their administrators could be required to block information and content that could constitute "acts of discrimination, hate, insults, threats or incitement of violence." The law does not define what content should be blocked, which critics say leaves it open to interpretation by private companies and individual administrators, explains the CPJ.

The law would create an inter-institutional commission to design and implement a national cybersecurity strategy, explains El Heraldo.

Radio HRN compares the initiative to a similar proposal submitted by former Ecuadorean president Rafael Correa.

News Briefs
  • Folha de S. Paulo has said it will no longer publish articles on Facebook. Brazil's biggest newspaper accused the social media giant of encouraging fake news with a new algorithm aimed at prioritizing "meaningful social interactions" over corporate content, reports the Guardian. "In effectively banning professional journalism from its pages in favour of personal content and opening space for ‘fake news’ to proliferate, Facebookbecame inhospitable terrain for those who want to offer quality content like ours," said Folha's executive editor Sérgio Dávila. Folha said an analysis based on 21 pages which post "fake news" and 51 of professional journalism showed that the average rate of interactions in the first group has increased by 61.6 percent between October 2017 and January 2018. The second group showed a 17 percent reduction.
  • Fake news is increasingly a concern in Brazil, ahead of presidential elections this year, reported VICE last month. The issue is especially complicated because of its ubiquity on the WhatsApp messaging platform owned by Facebook. "On WhatsApp, the most toxic aspects of fake news multiply: The platform exacerbates pockets of powerful echo chambers in a political environment already deeply polarized and makes tracking the reach and origins of disinformation particularly difficult for researchers, journalists, and, in Brazil’s case, the federal police."
  • The WhatsApp problem is highlighted a piece at the International Consortium of Journalists, which cites the efforts of Brazilian group Aos Fatos to develop a fact-checking for Facebook as well as user education efforts.
  • A proposal by a Brazilian senator takes it another step forward, and proposes a jail-term of up to three years for spreading "fake news."
  • Iron fist policing policies in El Salvador have been criticized for leading to human rights abuses, especially extrajudicial executions. In World Politics Review Danielle Mackey looks at the history of the policy -- which has been ineffective at actually reducing violence, but has proved useful electorally. "The rhetoric that took root in El Salvador around suspected gang members harkens back to moral panics around crime in the United States. The obsessive focus on the gangs as the focal point of societal ills recalls alarm over “squeegee men” in New York City under former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani or the “super-predators” that Hillary Clinton infamously warned about as first lady in the 1990s."
  • The British government is threatening to cut funding to Oxfam unless the organization can demonstrate "moral leadership" and hands over information regarding aid workers who allegedly paid Haitian earthquake victims for sex, reports the Guardian. The charity admitted Friday that some of its employees engaged in sexual misconduct while doing disaster recovery work in Haiti, reports the Washington Post. (See Friday's briefs.) But "the revelations from Haiti highlight concerns that structural flaws in how charities operate may have made those who work in the industry and those who it is meant to serve particularly vulnerable," according to a separate Guardian piece.
  • Failed negotiations between the Venezuelan government and opposition were a likely result of a process taken lightly by the Maduro administration -- but its ruling party's autocratic bent has been helped along by its opposition's failures, writes Alberto Barrera Tyszka in a New York Times Español op-ed. He points to "lack of unity, imposition of personal ambitions ... and even complicity, in some cases, with power. ... It is an unequal battle. It is not easy to face a government that behaves as if it were an occupation army. But in these critical moments, a dismembered opposition, without a plan or common voice, is a great ally of the official party. Because the government doesn't wish to dialogue with anybody, but it does need to recover the recognition it has lost." Participating in the upcoming April elections, in which most opposition parties and popular leaders have been barred, means legitimizing an oppressive system he writes. Venezuela needs institutional intervention -- a renewed electoral authority and strict international observation -- for which he advocates unified opposition struggle and increased international pressure.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may have managed to put stronger sanctions on the table in his recent trip to the region -- but he failed in terms of the broader array of interests the U.S. has in Latin America, writes Christopher Sabatini in a New York Times op-ed. "But the administration’s rhetoric on immigration, free trade and American allies’ commitment to battling the scourge of narcotics — not to mention Mr. Tillerson’s embrace of the Monroe Doctrine — have weakened Washington’s leverage throughout Latin America, as the declining popular approval of the Trump administration demonstrates. Mr. Tillerson may have incrementally improved America’s standing in the region, but with all his baggage, he couldn’t fully restore it."  
  • FARC suspended political campaigning for upcoming elections in Colombia in light of threats to its candidates and the killing of one, reports the Miami Herald. The party demanded "security guarantees" for its candidates on Friday. Former guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño in particular has been pelted with eggs and targeted by aggressive protesting at rallies, reports the BBC.
  • A new DNA database donated by the U.S. to Colombia will permit extended family members to submit samples in hopes of identifying the thousands of people disappeared over the course of the country's extended conflict, reports Reuters.
  • Argentine President Mauricio Macri met with an off-duty police officer who fatally shot a man who robbed a U.S. tourist. Critics say his stance supports "shoot first" policies for security forces. In the meeting Macri said he hoped the justice system would absolve the officer of a criminal case over the incident, reports the Associated Press.
  • LGBT people in Ecuador have been raped and beaten as part of "conversion therapy" that treats homosexuality as a mental illness to be cured, reports Reuters.
  • A police investigation into whether Brazil's corruption dogged President Michel Temer favored a logistics firm with a decree last year found no evidence of wrongdoing, reports Reuters. That is the last open case against the president, whose term ends this year.
  • The development of sign language among Nicaragua's deaf community occurred in isolation from other signing systems around the world, and provides a unique opportunity for linguists studying the origins of language, writes Dan Rosenheck in the Economist's 1843 magazine.
  • Carnival: glitter is ubiquitous in Rio celebrations, but experts are warning about its impact on marine environments, reports the Guardian. And while #MeToo hasn't had a strong local impact yet, some women's fans read "no means no," reports the New York Times. And celebrations this year included block parties of all-female musicians, shirts, necklaces and crowns with messages like “my breasts, my rules” and several campaigns to report and crackdown on harassment, reports the Associated Press.

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