The newly-translated anthology ‘Digital Violence in Mexico: The State Vs. Civil Society’ explores the increasing usage of digital surveillance for oppressive practices — and its impacts on human rights. Mozilla Fellow Alex Argüelles contributes to the anthology
(Mexico City, Mexico | June 2, 2022) — Digital spaces expected to be avenues of freedom of expression are actually being used to monitor, target, and harass journalists, activists, and other members of civil society bodies, a recently published anthology shows.
The e-book — originally published in Spanish as Violencia digital en México: El Estado vs. La sociedad civil and now available in English — illustrates how digital tools are heightening surveillance and attacks directed at individuals, vulnerable communities, and groups appearing to question the political status quo in Mexico.
“Digital violence is social-political violence,” explains Mozilla Tech and Society Fellow Alex Argüelles, who also authored a chapter in the anthology.
Argüelles’ chapter, “Technolosolutionism as Obstruction of Justice,” cautions against the overreliance on technology to solve structural societal challenges. Especially challenges like violence against women and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as perpetuated by inequality gaps.
Argüelles explains that forms of techno-solutionism exist in the Mexican government’s reliance on electronic monitoring and surveillance. These are presented as “innovative” approaches to security, yet fail to address the root causes of such violence.
Indeed, Argüelles explains, gender-based violence and targeted street crimes have increased despite heightened deployments of surveillance equipment and the participation of "cyberpolice" in social media monitoring.
This anthology shows the extent to which techno-solutionism tends to validate the use of abusive technology. A state that assumes the people it governs are potential criminals is a state that relies on punishment — not justice — as a form of government.
The anthology documents multiple case studies of how these technologies for "security" and "progress" are being used by state officials to perpetuate harm and abuse against human rights defenders, activists, community organizers, and journalists across the country for the last decade, all without accountability measures.
A total of seven chapters, the anthology is authored by technologists, lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists, and researchers. Thematic areas include the digital divide and marginalization, authoritarianism and surveillance, gender-based discrimination and violence, misinformation and censorship, open access to culture and knowledge, and transformative justice.
Mexico is ranked as one of the most dangerous countries for journalists in Latin America. This treatment enables a silencing chamber that leaves countless residents in the dark, uninformed or misinformed. “Legitimate use of force” through technology directly breaches fundamental rights such as privacy, freedom of expression, or the right to information.
About Alex Argüelles
Alex Argüelles is a technologist with a degree in communication science, a member of Ciberseguras, and founder of the comun.al digital resilience laboratory. Since 2013, they have collaborated on human rights and technological initiatives in Latin America, engaging in advocacy and analysis with an emphasis on privacy, gender, accessibility, and inclusion. They facilitate workshops and provide digital security support for the region’s journalists and activists with a psychosocial focus and a transformative justice approach. They currently form part of the Mozilla Foundation’s Technology and Society fellowship program, addressing the sociopolitical violence exercised through technologies in Mexico.