Mexico: Our record on accountability for Big Tech companies speaks for itself

Mexico: Our record on accountability for Big Tech companies speaks for itself - Digital

Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash.

ARTICLE 19 stands in solidarity with our colleagues in Mexico in the face of false allegations propagated by Ulrich Richter Morales, a lawyer suing Google. In connection with the case, and in an article published in El Universal, Richter Morales accused ARTICLE 19 of lacking impartiality and of ‘serving as a vehicle for Google and Facebook’. ARTICLE 19 refutes this accusation as completely without basis in fact, and states unequivocally that these sources of funding have never influenced our positions with regard to Big Tech.  

In 2022, a court in Mexico City ordered Google to pay close to 250 million dollars in compensation to Richter Morales for failure to take down a blogpost from its Blogger platform. Richter Morales alleged the blogpost contained defamatory information about him. Google appealed and the case is now being heard at the Supreme Court. 

ARTICLE 19 Mexico submitted an amicus brief in the case, in which they defended the core principle of the modern Internet – that platforms should be protected from liability for third parties’ content when they have not been involved in modifying the content in question. 

On 28 January, Richter Morales published a piece in El Universal against ARTICLE 19, alleging conflict of interest and that the organisation is misleading the court by submitting a third party intervention in the case, given that ARTICLE 19 Mexico received a certain amount of funding from Google. On 29 January, it was reported that he filed a criminal lawsuit against the organisation. 

In response, ARTICLE 19 highlights that our policy on intermediary liability had been adopted long before any funding was received from any of the technology companies. In fact, ARTICLE 19 has for years been consistent in advocacy of freedom of expression standards in the context of intermediary liability. In 2013 we published our Dilemma of Liability policy, which forms the basis of our longstanding strand of work. In it, we argued that holding platforms liable for content of others would have a profound chilling effect on the freedom of expression of internet users, but also that it makes the platforms complicit in a substantial invasion of their users’ privacy. We were also one of the civil society organisations behind the drafting of the Manila Principles of Intermediary Liability, first released in 2015. ARTICLE 19 has defended platforms’ immunity from liability in front of the US Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights.  

With regards to funding, ARTICLE 19 has always been transparent about the sources of our income, all of which come from a variety of institutional and private donors. Our funding sources are declared in compliance reports and documentation, and have never been concealed from either the community we serve, or the donors who support our work around the world. 

The attacks levelled against ARTICLE 19 Mexico are not based on any serious analysis of our positions on the issues related to Big Tech. Our organisation has also consistently criticised Big Tech companies, including Google, for their exploitative business models based on surveillance advertising. 

In fact, ARTICLE 19 has spearheaded pioneering work using pro-competition tools to transform digital markets so that they can better serve people. The work is focused specifically on addressing and combating the growing power of tech giants such as Meta and Alphabet – the very monopolies Richter Morales falsely accuses us of being ‘a front’ for. 

Accusations of funder bias have no evidence in reality. Our work has always been guided solely by our commitment to protecting and advancing freedom of expression. ARTICLE 19 Mexico has been one of the strongest campaigners for freedom for Julian Assange, despite the US government being one of our funders. 

We consider this baseless attack on ARTICLE 19 Mexico to be a blatant attempt at intimidation, targeting a human rights organisation which tirelessly works to expose wrongdoing at the highest levels of power and consistently stands up for freedom of expression.