NGO criticizes Twitter for "allowing censorship" of images, references to Ecuadorian president

Ecuadorian press freedom NGO Fundamedios sent a letter to Twitter criticizing the company for having complied to remove content depicting or referring to President Rafael Correa that the organization described as public information. Twitter removed the content from its service after receiving several complaints in the last few months from Spanish company Ares Rights, which the Ecuadorian government is currently employing to track alleged copyright infringements online.

Fundamedios said the removal of the content represents an act of censorship against Ecuadorian citizens, activists and all other individuals that are critical of Correa's administration. The organization said the move contravenes international treaties on freedom of expression, the United States' Digital Millennium Copyright Act and Ecuador's intellectual property law.

In April, Fundamedios reported that Twitter blocked one account for 24 hours and warned about possible permanent suspension after Ares Rights filed a copyright complaint against it. Twitter user and activist @diana_amores had her account suspended after publishing public images of Correa's recent electoral campaign, making a parody of a popular Latin American comic strip and reproducing an open letter. @diana_amores argued it was fair use of the materials.

In October 2013, Ares Rights sought to remove the documentary “The Harassment of Intag” from social media for having used without authorization images from Correa's TV program Enlace Ciudadano, which runs in state netwrok Ecuador TV.

According to Ares Rights, Enlace Ciudadano is protected intellectual property. However, Rafael Correa and his communications secretary Fernando Alvarado have pointed out in prior occasions that the program constitutionally belongs to all Ecuadorian citizens.

In November 2012, citing similar reasons, Ares Rights sought to remove the documentary “Rafael Correa: portrait of the father of a country,” produced by Colombian-Ecuadorian journalist Santiago Villa. Correa said the documentary was disparaging to him and his family.

“Public information belongs to every single Ecuadorian and not to the national government, much less its political parties," Fundamedios executive director César Ricaurte Pérez said in a letter to Ares Rights.

The organization called on both Twitter and Ares Rights to stop censoring Ecuadorians and infringing on their rights.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.