Freedom of Expression on the Web is Called into Question When the U.S. Government Authorizes Censorship of Mexican Protest Website

March 6, 2014

On December 3, 2013, the website (Mirror Here) was pulled by its host The site was originally founded in 2012 as a means to protest the inauguration of controversial president, Enrique Peña Nieto. The election was under fire for multiple allegations of election fraud including allegations of buying votes. However, the official results revealed Nieto’s victory by a six percent margin over his next competitor, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The site served as a means to raise awareness of both the controversial President-elect as well as Mexican policies that criminalized public protests.

The site served as a means to raise awareness of both the controversial President-elect as well as Mexican policies that criminalized public protests. In a country that has struggled to maintain a stable government in the midst of a rampant drug war in the United States, the site served as a voice for a generation that is fed up with cartel corruption and willing to fight for change. However, the host, as well as frequent visitors to the site, were appalled last December when they were met with a message from the popular GoDaddy domain registrar that indicated the site had been removed in order to comply with an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency located in Mexico City. It is still uncertain which Mexican Government Agency passed the order on to US officials.
Although the site itself may be deemed a violation of Mexican law, under the Communications Decency Act (CDA), GoDaddy cannot be held criminally liable in US courts for hosting the site. The CDA provides: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” But one may ask why an American agency is directing a private organization to censor its customers. Although the primary customer, the owner of the domain in question, is clearly a resident of Mexico and not privy to US Constitutional protections, the global accessibility of the Internet calls into question the US government’s ability to censor a news outlet that is intended to reach readers in the United States.
While the domain owner has filed suit in Mexican courts, this issue still raises questions of law north of the border. As some may remember, protests in 2012 helped to derail a potential Internet censorship bill in the US. This instance brings forward the converse of the problem faced last January. The prior bill challenged those overseas who were creating websites in violation of US anti-piracy laws. Because the site permitted users to violate copyright restrictions within the US, the US government sought to shut down the sites. Conversely, this site was created by the US domain registrar GoDaddy and operated in potential violation of Mexican laws. However, if American citizens fought to prevent the US government from shutting down a website hosted by foreign country in violation of American laws, isn’t it only fair we support the fight by Mexican citizens to prevent the Mexican government from doing the same?