An alarming act of censorship by private companies took place on September 26, 2012 in Paraguay. Two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) blocked the AbcColor.me website without a judicial warrant.
The controversial website is a platform for user generated content which resembles a local newspaper, ABC Color. Any user can upload news (false news and satire are welcome) as well as pictures related to the news. Once the content is uploaded, the appearance of the article looks like the ABC Color newspaper but has a disclaimer in the footer stating that the site contains user generated content and false news.
TEDIC reported the situation and criticized the ISPs’ move as a violation of consumer rights and an act against net neutrality principles and consumer rights.
When users tried to access the site from the Tigo ISP they received a warning, informing them they were being redirected as the company classified the site as containing malicious software and furthermore simply denied access. It was also blocked from mobile phones.
After netizens became outraged and upset about this clear act of censorship by a private company, as they increased pressure on Twitter and even the Pirate Party in Argentina expressed its concerns, the ISPs unblocked the website.
The Personal ISP apologized, saying that they blocked the website ¨due to an error in their processes¨. Tigo Paraguay did not apologize or explained users, they simply unblocked the site.
With presidential elections approaching next April 2013, after former President Lugo's impeachment, online freedom of expression is a sensitive and vulnerable issue in a highly divided country where polical unrest concerns many. Now Paraguayan citizens know that their ISPs own the technology to censor sites quickly and are willing to do so. As consumers and citizens, that should raise all sorts of concerns.