AMLO live doxes a journalist and challenges YouTube

AMLO live doxes a journalist and challenges YouTube
Harassment and cyberbullying
Content Moderation

On Thursday, February 22, during his morning press conference - broadcast, among other channels, on YouTube and Facebook - Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) displayed on a screen and commented on a letter sent by Natalie Kitroeff, a journalist for the New York Times. The document presented a series of questions addressed to the government to include its version in a report on an alleged relationship of AMLO's allies with drug trafficking. Upon reading the letter, the president pronounced aloud the journalist's phone number. 

Two days later, YouTube removed the video from its platform, claiming that it had violated its policies on harassment and cyberbullying, which prohibit disclosing private information, including telephone numbers. In X (Twitter), the President rejected the company's measure: "Due to censorship, YouTube took down the video of the press conference of Thursday, February 22, because according to them, it violates community standards. It is an arrogant and authoritarian attitude". 

For Artículo 19, an organization dedicated to the defense of freedom of expression, these kinds of acts, which the government has committed more than once, put journalists in a situation of vulnerability. In one of the most dangerous countries for the practice of journalism, "making public the telephone number of Natalie, a woman journalist focused on organized crime investigations, is a serious attack on her freedom of expression and right to privacy," it said in a statement. 

In addition, the episode prompted the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Protection of Personal Data (INAI) to open an ex officio investigation into whether AMLO had violated Mexico's data protection regulations. 

A few days later, the video of the press conference was republished on YouTube, without the fragment in which Kitroeff's information was revealed. However, in 'La mañanera' - as these types of conferences are known - on Monday, February 26, AMLO read a new letter in which the journalist asked him for answers to her investigation. 

Before doing so, a member of the audience warned him that his YouTube channel could be taken down. AMLO took advantage of the space to criticize the platform and assured that the company in Mexico was "taken over by conservatives linked to a party". 

Although on that occasion he threatened to reveal Kitroeff's phone number again, under the idea that journalism is a public exercise and data must be transparent, his advisors finally hid it during the broadcast. In any case, he criticized again YouTube's policies for this kind of content: "We were not consulted when these rules were approved, but it is not only a technical issue, it is a political issue, because there is no way that this rule will be applied to our adversaries", he said at the conference.

Notwithstanding the Chairman's remark, YouTube's community rules, like those of other social networks, constitute a clause of the platform's terms of use, and are therefore applicable to all users. 

The original video was also removed from the president's Facebook page, with no information as to whether it was a sanction or a voluntary act. In any case, the website of the Presidency of Mexico, where the morning conferences are transcribed, still displays Kitroeff's data. 

YouTube's policies warn that a channel may be removed in case of repeated non-compliance. This scenario, for now, does not seem to worry the President, as he made clear when a person, on the morning of February 26, asked him if he would stop using the platform after the sanction: "You don't get out of the parade, they take you out".

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