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Mexican President calls on world leaders to commit to protecting free speech online

President López Obrador says it needs to be a major topic at the next G20.
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Free speech supporters seem to have gained a new ally in high places: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.

He has announced a plan to rally other leaders around the world against social media censorship that has escalated in unprecedented ways over these last days.

Obrador specified that he would bring the issue up in the G20 format and is now inviting other countries to join the effort, making it clear that the initiative was sparked by the recent banning of US President Trump by major social networks.

In a similar vein to what German Chancellor Angela Merkel stated before him, when she criticized the move against Trump as problematic because private corporations were stifling speech, guided by their own rules rather than by the law, Obrador wondered, “How can a company act as if it was all-powerful, omnipotent?”

He went a step further when he compared it to the notorious Spanish inquisition era of Europe’s dark ages. At the same time, he said that social networks should not be used to incite violence – but neither should such incidents be used as an excuse to violate free speech rights and decide who can and cannot express themselves online.

As for the concrete action Mexico intends to take, contacts are being made with officials in Europe, notably France and Germany, as well as Latin America and Asia, the country’s foreign minister, Marcelo Ebrard, explained.

The goal of these conversations “with others who think the same” is to launch a campaign and come up with an as yet undefined joint proposal to tackle the issue, the AP reports, citing Ebrard.

Meanwhile Obrador, who is often described as close to Trump and also sometimes critical of social media, used his Facebook page to urge his followers there to – switch to Telegram, where he already has an account. The Mexican president is also said to have in the past praised social media as a way to communicate with supporters when traditional media suppressed his message.

Merkel and Obrador are not the only leaders who have expressed concern about the ongoing online censorship, as Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki used the opportunity to call for new EU regulation of Facebook and Twitter, adding that corporate giants “should not decide which views are right and which are not.”

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