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Social media is an irreversible phenomenon of unprecedented scale. It has already affected social behaviour more than many other technological breakthroughs. Social media are everywhere, including in the workplace, in the company’s systems and equipment, but also in the employees’ portable devices. That is why the mere blocking of social media websites by the companies does not prevent the employee from using their particular cellphones to access them while working or even post a comment about the company from the personal computer at any other time. This is an issue of growing importance in Latin America. With its improving internal revenue, the region, and particularly Brazil, is the home of several avid users of the different forms of social media. In 2013, Facebook had 156 million users in Latin America, with 56 million users in Brazil alone. Brazil also ranks second in number of Twitterusers in Latin America, with more than 33.3 million. Moreover, according to Reuters’ Digital News Report 2013, 60% of Brazilian respondents said social media was one of the top five ways in which they view news online, compared to 30% in the US, and 17% in the UK. Brazilians are also particularly enthusiastic about commenting on news stories posted on social networks; 38% of respondents said they comment on news items via social media at least once a week, compared to 21% in the US, and 10% in the UK. Further growth is all but guaranteed, Brazil has a population of around 200 million; this means that more than 30% of the country’s inhabitants have an account with at least one social media platform. Other countries in Latin America also show impressive figures: Mexico ranks second in the social media market, with 35.6 million users; while Argentina ranks third, with 17.4 million users. According to US market research firm eMarketer, by 2017 the number of Mexicans and Argentines using social media will reach 56.3 and 22.5 million respectively; Brazil will have approximately 91 million users. Considering that social media is a relatively new addition to Latin American workplaces, companies are still learning how to deal with the phenomenon in a satisfactory manner. It is perhaps incumbent for businesses, whether they are national or international, and their in-house counsel to consider recent guidance on social media usage in the workplace in these three jurisdictions.

Those tasked with drafting or promoting legislation guaranteeing the right to information face a number of challenges. How should the regime of exceptions be crafted so as to strike an appropriate balance between the right to know and the need for secrecy to protect certain key public and private interests? How extensive should the obligation to publish and disseminate information be and how can the law ensure that this obligation grows in line with technological developments? What procedures for requesting information can balance the need for timely, inexpensive access against the pressures and resource constraints facing civil servants? What right of appeal should individuals have when their requests for information have been refused? Which positive measures need to be taken to change the culture of secrecy that pervades the public administration in so many countries and to inform the public about this right? Conducted by Toby Mendel, this study helps to clarify some of these challenges from a regional, comparative perspective. It illustrates the way, in which eleven Latin American countries have dealt with enacting right to information legislation.

Protests in Brazil have highlighted, most recently, the growing use of social media for citizens to organize politically, outside the traditional parties and union structures of the past. New communication technologies have also played a key role in political organization and protests throughout the hemisphere, including the #YoSoy132 protests in Mexico, education protests in Chile, and cacerolazos in Argentina. Are these communications technologies helping promote better governance or disrupting government stability? What are governments doing to respond and organize online? How are these technologies impacting debates over media and censorship of political issues in the hemisphere? To answer these questions, the Americas Program is pleased to welcome James Bosworth, author of Bloggings by Boz

2013 event covering New Media Technologies and Social Movements in Latin America at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Audio of the event here.