Freedom on the Net 2022 - Argentina

/ 100
Obstacles to Access 19 / 25
Limits on Content 27 / 35
Violations of User Rights 25 / 40
71 / 100 Free
Scores are based on a scale of 0 (least free) to 100 (most free). See the research methodology and report acknowledgements.


Argentina’s internet environment remained free during the coverage period, as users generally experienced unfettered access to online content and were able to engage freely on social media. Criminal complaints were not wielded against users for COVID-19-related content as much as when the pandemic began, activists continued to use digital tools to mobilize around gender issues, and the government made decisions that favored user privacy in the face of potentially exploitative practices by social media companies. Despite these positive developments, reports of illegal government surveillance continue to emerge, while technical attacks have continued to target government entities and at least one website hosting investigative reporting.

Argentina is a vibrant representative democracy with competitive elections, lively media and civil society sectors, and unfettered public debate. Economic instability, corruption in the government and judiciary, and drug-related violence are among the country’s most serious challenges.

Key Developments, June 1, 2021 - May 31, 2022

  • Women’s rights activists continued to use digital tools to draw attention to gender issues during the coverage period. The #PeriodismoConDiversidad (Journalism with Diversity) campaign was launched in April 2022 to call for greater inclusion of women and other marginalized people in media (see B8).
  • Users saw fewer instances of criminal complaints or charges for COVID-19-related content during the coverage period. Charges leveled against an investigative journalist were dropped in November 2021 (see C3).
  • In December 2021, former president Mauricio Macri was charged with ordering the illegal surveillance of the relatives of 44 sailors who died when their submarine sank in 2017. The sailors’ relatives had reported having their email addresses and various digital accounts hacked in 2018. A federal court dismissed the charges in July 2022, after the coverage period (see C5).
  • A new director was appointed to lead the national data protection authority in March 2022 amid criticism from civil society and the opposition, after the position had been vacant for almost a year. In a positive move for user privacy that same month, the government issued a resolution extending a prohibition against the implementation of WhatsApp’s updated terms of service and privacy policy for Argentine users, citing an ongoing investigation into potentially exploitative data processing and sharing practices (see C6).
  • In June 2021, a site hosting investigative reporting on a conversative political network was taken offline as the result of a likely technical attack (see C8). After the reporting was published, one journalist involved in the investigation reported receiving threats over the phone and having her personal information leaked online (see C7).

A Obstacles to Access

A1 0-6 pts
Do infrastructural limitations restrict access to the internet or the speed and quality of internet connections? 5 / 6

Argentina’s internet penetration rate is among the highest in Latin America, with more than 85 percent of the population able to access the internet according to 2020 data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the most recent available.1

There were 7.84 million fixed-line internet subscriptions in the first quarter of 2022, a 2 percent year-over-year increase.2 There were 34.78 million mobile internet users in the first trimester of 2022, a 9.9 percent increase over the previous year.3 According to late 2021 data from the Argentine Internet Chamber (CABASE), fiber-optic connections represent only 17 percent of all fixed-line internet connections in the country.4

Measurements of internet speed vary, but a range of sources show that the country lags behind global averages and that speeds are slower than those in several other Latin American countries.5 In June 2021, CABASE reported that 73 percent of all connections were faster than 6 megabits per second (Mbps); 55 percent of connections were above 20 Mbps, 7 percent between 10 and 20 Mbps, and 11 percent between 6 and 10 Mbps.6

Projects to expand internet infrastructure were implemented during the coverage period. The 2,500 kilometer Malbec subsea cable system, which connects Argentina and Brazil, began operating in June 2021.7 The National Authority for Communications (ENACOM) had authorized service provider GlobeNet to implement the project, which was developed in collaboration with Facebook and is envisioned to double the country’s connectivity capacity,8 in July 2020.9 Also in June 2021, Google announced plans to build the Firmina subsea cable, which will connect Argentina and the United States and will also land in Brazil and Uruguay; Firmina is expected to begin operating in 2023.10

In September 2020, President Alberto Fernández launched the National Plan of Connectivity (Connect), which seeks in part to expand the national satellite system to improve connectivity in rural areas and continue the expansion of the Federal Fiber Optics Network by its projected completion in 2024 (see A2).11

A2 0-3 pts
Is access to the internet prohibitively expensive or beyond the reach of certain segments of the population for geographical, social, or other reasons? 2 / 3

Some Argentine connectivity costs are low when compared to costs in other parts of South America. However, high inflation makes internet subscriptions relatively expensive for Argentines, especially for those with lower incomes. A notable geographic divide persists.

Geographic differences in internet access are substantial. Fixed-line internet subscriptions reach over 80 percent of households in provinces such as La Pampa, Chubut, Tierra del Fuego, and Córdoba, and below 40 percent in others, like San Juan and Formosa. Nearly a third of provinces have internet penetration levels below 50 percent.12

Many who lack internet access live in rural areas. According to a study conducted by ENACOM and the National Agricultural Technology Institute between November 2020 and May 2021, over 40 percent of the 331 rural areas surveyed lacked internet connectivity. Surveyed areas with Indigenous populations saw even greater levels of nonconnectivity, at 60 percent.13

According to Cable, a UK-based company, the average price for 1 gigabyte (GB) of mobile data in Argentina was 188.75 Argentine pesos ($1.87) in 2022.14 Argentina’s average monthly broadband cost of 2,321 pesos ($20.92) was the second cheapest in South America according to Cable.15 The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Inclusive Internet Index 2022 ranks Argentina 33rd out of 100 countries surveyed in terms of affordability. Regionally, Argentina placed 5th of the 16 countries surveyed.16

Argentina’s main service providers have raised the cost of mobile plans in recent years.17 The government has sought to curb these efforts in the past. In August 2020, a presidential decree declared landline and mobile phone, internet, and pay television services essential public services; extended a May decision to temporarily suspend increases in rates to last through the end of 2020; and required government approval for price increases after the suspension ended. However, a series of judicial rulings in 2021 exempted a number of telecommunications companies from the decree, allowing them to increase prices (see A4).18

Various government initiatives have sought to promote digital inclusion. In February 2022, ENACOM granted over 1.7 billion pesos ($16.8 million) to a number of projects promoting equitable information and communication technology (ICT) access for less-connected communities, including several focused on expanding broadband infrastructure and promoting the development of ICTs in less profitable, and therefore underserved, parts of the country.19 In December 2020, the government launched a Universal Basic Plan to provide telephone, internet, and pay television services for low-income Argentines by offering different low-cost packages to those who meet specific criteria. Companies are required to offer these packages under this plan, which officially began in January 2021.20 As of August 2021, 400,000 mobile-telephony plans and 5,000 internet plans had been provided.21

While Law 27.078 protects net neutrality,22 practices such as zero-rating are commonplace; for example, major mobile providers do not charge users to access WhatsApp.23

A3 0-6 pts
Does the government exercise technical or legal control over internet infrastructure for the purposes of restricting connectivity? 6 / 6

The government does not exercise control over telecommunications infrastructure. There have been no reported instances of the government cutting off internet connectivity during protests or social unrest.

Argentina has 32 functioning internet exchange points (IXPs) strategically distributed in major cities across the country,24 which help manage internet traffic efficiently.25

A4 0-6 pts
Are there legal, regulatory, or economic obstacles that restrict the diversity of service providers? 4 / 6

Argentina has at least 234 internet service providers (ISPs), including many small- and medium-sized providers.26 Grupo Clarín is the dominant broadband provider, holding 46 percent of that market as of February 2021, followed by Telefónica with 15 percent, Telecentro with 12 percent, and Supercanal with 7 percent. Small ISPs together hold the remaining 20 percent of the broadband market.27 The mobile sector is concentrated under market leaders Claro (América Móvil, 36.8 percent), Personal (Telecom Argentina, 33.9 percent), and Movistar (Telefónica, 29.4 percent).28

A megamerger between Telecom Argentina and cable-television provider Cablevisión was completed by mid-2018,29 creating the country’s largest telecommunications and media group.30 The combined company provides fixed-line and mobile internet services, voice telephony, over-the-top (OTT) services, and telecommunications products for corporate clients. Mobile service provider Personal (part of Cablevisión-Telecom) has since seen an increase in its market share.31 Competitors and experts raised concerns about this merger’s impact on pluralism, diversity, and competition.32 These concerns were partly addressed during the coverage period. By March 2022, Telecom Argentina completed returning excess spectrum to the state; it had gained the additional spectrum from the merger, but ENACOM stipulated that additional spectrum beyond the cap for individual providers must be returned when it approved the deal.33

The government and ENACOM have made decisions with potential to increase competition in recent years. A May 2020 suspension of price increases for telecommunications services applied only to products offered by select major companies, while cooperatives and small- and medium-sized enterprises were exempt (see A2).34 In April 2021, a federal court suspended the application of an August 2020 presidential decree in the case of Telecom Argentina; under the decree, price increases imposed after a freeze expiring in December 2020 required government approval. In May 2021, ENACOM announced it would appeal that decision at the Supreme Court.35 A series of judicial rulings extended the suspension to other telecommunication companies, including Telefónica in December 2021, effectively neutralizing the government’s attempt to control prices.36

A 2017 resolution has allowed the government to push for a more “flexible and objective” ICT licensing regime.37 The process to obtain an ISP license can be done online with a payment fee of 20,000 pesos ($198).38

A5 0-4 pts
Do national regulatory bodies that oversee service providers and digital technology fail to operate in a free, fair, and independent manner? 2 / 4

The main telecommunications regulator, ENACOM, was created by presidential decree in December 2015,39 and later validated by the National Congress in April 2016.40

The body’s composition has raised some concerns about possible executive influence. ENACOM operates within the public innovation secretariat, under the chief of cabinet of ministers, and has a board comprised of four directors chosen by the president and three proposed by the legislature: one by the majority or first minority party, one by the second minority party, and one by the third minority party. ENACOM’s decisions can be approved by a simple majority, and its members, who serve four-year terms, may be removed by the president.41 The ICT policymaker is the Secretariat of Public Innovation, after the Fernández administration restructured the Secretariat of Modernization in December 2019.42

The executive body, the Network Information Center (NIC) Argentina, regulates and registers all websites with the “.ar” top-level domain name. Registration of any domain ending in “.ar” requires an annual fee between 475 and 950 pesos ($4.71 and $9.41).43

B Limits on Content

B1 0-6 pts
Does the state block or filter, or compel service providers to block or filter, internet content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 5 / 6

Users in Argentina have access to a wide array of online content. Nevertheless, courts have the power to order website blocks, and have done so to protect copyright and limit access to unauthorized gambling sites based on different provincial regulations.44 Law 25.690 also requires ISPs to provide software that can allow users to choose to limit their own access to “specific websites.”45

Courts have made controversial decisions in recent years to try to block the mobile transportation app Uber, finding it was not in compliance with the legal framework for public transportation services.46 After a provisional order to suspend Uber was issued in Córdoba in 2019,47 Uber stopped operating in the city.48 The company resumed operations there in December 2020,49 after the city failed to comply with an October 2020 court order that required them to enact ridesharing regulations within 30 business days.50

B2 0-4 pts
Do state or nonstate actors employ legal, administrative, or other means to force publishers, content hosts, or digital platforms to delete content, particularly material that is protected by international human rights standards? 2 / 4

Courts continue to consider lawsuits from individuals requesting that search engines and platforms take down certain material. Judges have ordered search engines and social networks to remove content based on the right to honor and privacy, which is guaranteed under Article 52 of the civil code and allows Argentines to prevent or repair any damage to their reputation.

The “right to be forgotten” remains a subject of debate. In June 2022, after the coverage period, the Supreme Court ruled against the right to be forgotten when content falls within the public interest in Natalia Denegri v. Google.51 The Supreme Court held a public hearing on the case in March 2022;52 a civil judge had ruled in celebrity Natalia Denegri’s favor in February 2020, ordering Google to delist search results of keywords referring to Denegri’s involvement in a 1990s scandal—a decision that had been reaffirmed by the National Court of Civil Appeals in August 2020.53 During the 2022 hearing, various civil society organizations recommended that the Supreme Court not enshrine the right to be forgotten.54 The final ruling was well received by digital rights organizations for its strong precedent favoring the public interest over the right to be forgotten.55

A number of courts have recently overturned prior rulings requiring search engines to deindex information, with particular emphasis on information related to cases of sexual harassment. In June 2020, an appeals court in La Plata reversed a prior ruling that Facebook remove the URLs of posts on a feminist group’s Facebook page that denounced a political activist as an abuser and manipulator. The appeals court ruled that the group’s speech was constitutionally protected.56 In July 2021, the Federal Chamber of Bahía Blanca reversed a decision requiring Google and Facebook to remove present and future content about an actor who had been accused of sexually harassing a teenager in a 2018 Facebook post. The court stressed that free expression takes precedence over potential reputational damage, especially when the content in question involves specially protected speech from vulnerable populations—in this case, the rights of women, adolescents, and children.57

During the previous coverage period, major political players requested that courts order Google to conduct analyses on their knowledge panels, information boxes that appear after a search to provide a brief overview of a topic. These requests paved the way for demands that the search engine remove or suppress content, though this had not happened in practice by the end of the current coverage period. Former president and current vice president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner made one such request in August 2020 as a prior step to suing the company for defamation. She claimed that Google affected her image and honor when “Thief of the Argentine Nation” appeared in her knowledge panel in May 2020.58 Courts accepted Fernández de Kirchner’s request;59 Google appealed to the Supreme Court, which dismissed the appeal in March 2021 due to legal technicalities.60 First lady Fabiola Yáñez submitted a similar request in November 2020, which a court accepted in January 2021; she alleged that her knowledge panel displayed derogatory and misogynist remarks about her instead of her official title.61

B3 0-4 pts
Do restrictions on the internet and digital content lack transparency, proportionality to the stated aims, or an independent appeals process? 3 / 4

ENACOM publishes an online repository of websites that have been blocked, reinstated, or both after court orders.62 However, the tool does not specify the rules or criteria behind these decisions. The vast majority of website blocks concern online gambling (with over 30 cases in the first quarter of 2022), which is regulated differently in each province.

Recent court decisions have established takedown criteria to avoid potential abuse of generic injunctions that restrict freedom of expression (see B2).63 Though the country lacks a law on intermediary liability, a landmark 2014 Supreme Court ruling confirmed that intermediaries should not be liable for third-party content if they did not have knowledge of alleged third-party violations.64 It also established that intermediaries must remove unlawful content only if they are notified by a judicial order, thus favoring a judicial takedown regime over a “notice-and-takedown” system. However, the court stated that if the content involves “manifest illegality,” a private notification to the intermediary is sufficient. A 2017 Supreme Court ruling reaffirmed these standards in Gimbutas v. Google.65

B4 0-4 pts
Do online journalists, commentators, and ordinary users practice self-censorship? 3 / 4

Self-censorship among bloggers and internet users is not widespread in Argentina, although some isolated instances of harassment might elicit self-censorship in particular cases.

A number of developments in recent years have sparked concern for their potential to increase self-censorship among journalists and ordinary users. This includes NODIO, an observatory for online disinformation and symbolic violence launched by the Public Defender’s Office in October 2020. Political opposition members and media organizations warned that NODIO could be used for state control over and persecution of online discourse.66 Similar concerns arose in March 2022, when the government announced its work on a project to promote the “proper” use of social networks. The initiative was interpreted by the opposition and journalism organizations as a plan to regulate social networks,67 which they said would encourage self-censorship.68 In response, the government stressed that it had no intention of proposing regulation on the matter.69

B5 0-4 pts
Are online sources of information controlled or manipulated by the government or other powerful actors to advance a particular political interest? 3 / 4

There have been episodes in recent years of seemingly organized digital behavior through bots, trolls, and personal accounts connected to political campaigning.70

Though some disinformation regarding politicians did appear online in the lead-up to the November 2021 legislative election, the content did not have a significant impact on public debate. One false claim that circulated, for instance, was that former president Macri misspelled “November” in his personal notes.71 Past elections have been flashpoints for online manipulation and disinformation in Argentina. Ahead of the 2019 general elections, an exposé found that several agencies working to develop tailored social media campaigns for presidential candidates used trolls and bots to promote narratives against opponents.72

During the previous coverage period, in January 2021, Facebook reported removing just over 1,000 combined Facebook and Instagram accounts in December 2020 due to the inauthentic amplification of posts and articles about Sergio Berni, the minister of security for Buenos Aires Province. According to the report, these accounts were created in Argentina and targeted domestic audiences with the intent to make Berni-related content seem more popular by liking and resharing posts from the minister’s official page.73

B6 0-3 pts
Are there economic or regulatory constraints that negatively affect users’ ability to publish content online? 2 / 3

State advertising is typically allocated to traditional media outlets, placing some economic constraints on digital outlets. Political allocation of official advertising plays a major role in shaping media content at both the federal and local levels.74

The Fernández administration has continued a Macri-era trend of allocating funds based on positive news coverage.75 Of the 7.6 billion pesos ($75.3 million) allocated to 2,432 media outlets by the national government for official advertising between December 2020 and August 2021, 68 percent was allocated to 25 media groups. Grupo Clarín, which had benefited most from official advertising between 2016 and 2019 for their Macri-friendly coverage, again received the most funding (949.3 million pesos or $9.4 million). Other top recipients included Fernández-friendly media conglomerates Indalo and Octubre.76

During that time, only 23 percent of state funding was allocated to digital media. Funding was heavily concentrated in the capital, with 63 percent directed at Buenos Aires–based media.77

The continued distribution of funds along editorial lines is reportedly further evidenced by allocations that are incommensurate with viewership. For instance, Fernández-friendly media group El Destape—which consists only of a website and an FM radio station—received the 15th largest amount of state funding for media groups (87.3 million pesos or $865,000), more than media groups with notably larger audiences. Furthermore, the list of national-advertising beneficiaries included hundreds of websites and blogs that ardently support the current administration.78

In April 2019, the Senate approved a new law regulating the financing of political campaigns.79 It notably mandates that 60 percent of public resources for political-party digital advertising be allocated to digital news sites that generate content, 35 percent to outlets providing national coverage, and 25 percent to provincial outlets focusing on local content. This responds to media associations’ demands to compensate for losses due to the migration of advertising to search engines and social networks.80

B7 0-4 pts
Does the online information landscape lack diversity and reliability? 3 / 4

Argentina has an open and diverse online media environment. The digital ecosystem is populated with initiatives and content that reflect the interests of different groups, including Indigenous groups,81 LGBT+ people,82 feminists,83 and various religious congregations.84 However, media ownership is highly concentrated, which may in turn affect the diversity of news in the market (see B6).85

Several civil society initiatives have sought to counter online misinformation and disinformation and render the online media ecosystem more reliable in recent years. Reverso, a collaborative project coordinated by fact-checking organization Chequeado and consisting of more than 40 media organizations, returned ahead of the November 2021 legislative elections to combat misleading or false electoral information.86 The project was initially launched in 2019 ahead of that year’s presidential election.87

B8 0-6 pts
Do conditions impede users’ ability to mobilize, form communities, and campaign, particularly on political and social issues? 6 / 6

Argentines continue to use social media as a tool for political mobilization. Digital activism has played a crucial role in rallying protests and ushering in legislative change in recent years, especially for women’s rights.

Nationwide demonstrations against gender-based violence (GBV) took place in June 2022, after the coverage period, as part of a movement that began seven years prior following protests that began with the Twitter hashtag campaign, #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less).88 The hashtag initially went viral on social media in June 2015,89 and remained one of the most tweeted hashtags in subsequent years.90 Activists continued to use digital channels to spread the movement’s message in June 2022, including through an initiative that involved family members of femicide victims sharing their stories on social media.91 Another online campaign addressing gender issues, #PeriodismoConDiversidad (Journalism with Diversity), was launched in April 2022. Women journalists and dedicated gender editors shared videos accompanied with the hashtag in which they called for improved coverage of gender issues and the greater inclusion of women and other marginalized groups in media.92

The legalization of abortion in December 2020, during the previous coverage period, was widely seen as the result of the #NiUnaMenos movement.93 Social media played a key role in facilitating discussion during the legislative debate held in the month before the decision. Hashtags both supporting and opposing the right to abortion trended during the legislative session, the livestreams of which were watched by a record audience of more than 48,000 people.94

During the coverage period, ahead of November 2021 legislative elections, COVID-19-related restrictions on public gatherings led political parties and candidates to rely largely on social media for campaigning.95 Candidates used platforms like TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter to communicate with voters.96

C Violations of User Rights

C1 0-6 pts
Do the constitution or other laws fail to protect rights such as freedom of expression, access to information, and press freedom, including on the internet, and are they enforced by a judiciary that lacks independence? 4 / 6

Freedom of expression is guaranteed by the constitution97 and through the ratification of regional and international human rights treaties that share constitutional status.98 Argentina also explicitly established online freedom of expression protections through a presidential decree issued in 1997.99 These were expanded by the National Congress in 2005 to include “the search, reception, and dissemination of ideas and information of all kinds via internet services.”100 A national freedom of information law came into force in 2016.101

While the Supreme Court is relatively independent, Argentina’s judicial system has faced criticism in the past for inefficiencies and accusations of politicization in lower and province-level courts. In 2019, civil rights groups denounced a decision to investigate a federal judge who was looking into allegations of illegal surveillance operations and extortion, with potential links to government allies.102 Meanwhile, press freedom groups expressed alarm when several journalists were named in the judge’s investigation, decrying a judicial attempt to “criminalize interviews and professional secrecy.”103

C2 0-4 pts
Are there laws that assign criminal penalties or civil liability for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 2 / 4

Some laws impose criminal and civil liability for online activities, though defamatory statements regarding matters of public interest were decriminalized in 2009.104 Law 11.723 holds liable those who reproduce content that violates intellectual property by any means and establishes sanctions ranging from fines to six years in prison. In November 2013, the National Congress approved a law amending the penal code and establishing penalties of up to four years’ imprisonment for online contact with a minor carried out “with the purpose of committing a crime against [the minor’s] sexual integrity.”105 The proposal had sparked criticism among academics and legislators due to vague wording that would have criminalized any online interaction with minors, issuing the same sentence that is mandated for cases of abuse.106

A 2008 cybercrime law amended the criminal code to prohibit distribution and possession of child sexual abuse images, interception of communications and informatics systems, hacking, and electronic fraud. Some of the terms used in the legislation have been criticized as ambiguous, which could lead to overly broad interpretation.107

Other bills that could be used to punish certain forms of online speech due to broad wording were still under review at the end of the coverage period. These include legislative initiatives to impose prison sentences for identity theft online and the dissemination of nonconsensual intimate images and to criminalize “cyberbullying” and stalking.108

C3 0-6 pts
Are individuals penalized for online activities, particularly those that are protected under international human rights standards? 5 / 6

Score Change: The score improved from 4 to 5 because criminal charges against users for their online speech were imposed less often than when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Internet users do not generally face politically motivated arrests or prosecutions for online speech. However, journalists have been charged for their digital activities; users have been fined or investigated for social media comments; and social media monitoring has led to investigations being launched against online users.

Journalists and online personalities have faced charges and proceedings in relation to their digital activities, though charges tend to ultimately be dropped. Daniel Santoro, an investigative journalist for national newspaper Clarín, was charged with attempted extortion in April 2021 based on a judge’s claims that Santoro, who had requested comment on an article via a WhatsApp message, was a “necessary participant” in a broader extortion scheme. If found guilty, he would have faced up to five years in prison.109 A federal court revoked the decision in June 2021 citing a lack of evidence.110 The last charge against Santoro was ultimately dropped in November 2021, in another federal court decision that stressed Santoro’s behavior as a neutral and noncriminal outcome of his journalistic profession.111

In 2020, a court ruled that Diego Masci, a journalist and director of the outlet, engaged in criminal violation of privacy, issuing a 90,000-peso ($1,100) fine. In November 2021, a San Luis court upheld the ruling. The initial decision stemmed from a video that Masci had published online showing government minister Natalia Spinuzza under the influence of marijuana—a video that the court also ordered Google to remove from YouTube. Press freedom groups voiced concern over the ruling, which cited the lack of a public interest component, arguing that the video ceased being private when Spinuzza recorded and distributed it to third parties.112 In August 2022, after the coverage period, the Supreme Court overturned the ruling, citing a lack of appropriate consideration of Spinuzza’s status as a public figure and consequently of the right to freedom of expression more broadly in the San Luis court ruling.113

In February 2022, libertarian journalist and YouTuber Eduardo Prestofelippo (also known as El Presto) was sentenced to 30 days’ house arrest for discrimination and harassment against the first lady, Fabiola Yáñez. The charges stem from two YouTube videos and a Facebook post made by Prestofelippo in 2020, in which he made insulting remarks about Yáñez’s private life. Prestofelippo was also ordered to take a course on gender violence and respect for women at the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Racism, a state agency.114 Previously, in September 2020, Prestofelippo was arrested during a police raid on his home after he allegedly tweeted death threats to Vice President Fernández de Kirchner; the charges were dismissed that December when a judge ruled the tweet protected under freedom of expression standards.115

In June 2021, a federal court reversed charges of public intimidation against a citizen who posted a tweet criticizing former president Macri and threatening to put a bomb in the Casa Rosada, the official presidential office. The court highlighted that the tweet did not intend to generate alarm or threaten the commission of a crime and was made in a context that did not warrant criminal proceedings.116

Criminal complaints, fines, and threats of legal action were wielded against journalists for pandemic-related Facebook content during the previous coverage period. In January 2021, the municipality of Quilmes filed a criminal complaint against Roberto Carrigall, an anchor and reporter for Del Bosque Radio who also reports via his Facebook account. Carrigall alleged that a municipality-run hospital damaged COVID-19 vaccine doses by improperly handling them in a Facebook post. He faces up to six years in prison if charged, though there were no updates on the case by the end of the current coverage period.117 In June 2020, journalist Ariel Barrios was fined 40,000 pesos ($494) for spreading allegedly false information about the pandemic on Facebook, using a municipal ordinance that imposed fines for disseminating such content online.118 The fine against her was reversed after the city council repealed the ordinance later that month.119

C4 0-4 pts
Does the government place restrictions on anonymous communication or encryption? 2 / 4

The Argentine government does not impose restrictions on anonymity or encryption for internet users, but registration requirements are in place for obtaining a mobile phone or a domain name (see A5). Bloggers and internet users are not required to register with the government and can post anonymous comments freely in online forums.

Telecommunications operators must register users’ identification information before selling them mobile phones or prepaid SIM cards.120 A resolution signed in October 2016 established a database of personal information, requiring ENACOM to adopt measures to identify all mobile communications users in a national registry.121 Mobile service providers must store the information in a safe and auditable manner, and supply information on request to the judiciary or public prosecutors. The resolution does not state how long the information must be stored. Civil society groups criticized the policy for undermining anonymity and freedom of expression.122

In July 2016, the National Directorate for the Registry of Internet Domain Names launched a new regulation for the administration of domain names.123 In order to register, transfer, or cancel a domain, individuals must apply for a “tax password” (Clave Fiscal) by providing the Federal Administration of Public Revenues with fingerprints, a facial photo, and their signature.124

C5 0-6 pts
Does state surveillance of internet activities infringe on users’ right to privacy? 3 / 6

In general, Argentina has strong, constitutionally rooted privacy standards. Though covert or unlawful surveillance does not seem to be widespread, some sectors have attempted to spy on internet users. Security services engage in monitoring of journalists’ online activities.

Government agencies do not systematically collect or access internet users’ metadata directly, but they may request it from service providers with a warrant,125 which has been upheld by the judiciary regarding information like geolocation data.126 Interception of private communications requires judicial authorization.127

The Ministry of Security has consistently recommended that federal police engage in “cyberpatrolling” since 2017, when the email and Twitter account of the minister at the time were hacked.128 This practice involves a proactive approach to identifying illicit activities online, mainly by searching social media platforms and monitoring results, without appropriate transparency measures or safeguards.129

In May 2020, the ministry published a protocol through Resolution 144/2020 that outlined general principles and guidelines for authorities engaging in such cyberpatrolling.130 Though the AAIP suggested that the protocol be suspended or changed to comply with the national data protection law and the right to privacy following the AAIP’s review that June, it remains unclear whether the government has accepted the recommendations.131

In March 2022, the Federal Chamber excluded a report stemming from an investigation into whether former president Macri and other officials pressured members of the judiciary; the defendants alleged the report relied on cyberpatrolling. In November 2021, a federal prosecutor had originally ordered an agency under the Supreme Court to report all critical public statements, including via social media, made by Macri and officials close to him between 2015 and 2019. That month, the Bar Association of the City of Buenos Aires criticized the order as a violation of free-expression rights; in its rejection of the report as evidence, the Federal Chamber said it invasively and excessively infringed upon people’s democratic rights.132

The Federal Intelligence Agency has been found to have carried out illegal surveillance during the presidency of Mauricio Macri, from 2015 to 2019. Targets included journalists, politicians, and political and social organizations.133 In December 2021, Macri was charged with ordering the illegal surveillance of the relatives of 44 sailors who died when their submarine sank in 2017. Family members reported having their email addresses, social media, and other accounts hacked in 2018. Macri denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.134 A federal court dismissed the charges in July 2022, after the coverage period, labelling the operation justified based on its “sole objective” of preserving “presidential and/or internal security.”135

Previously, in June 2020, prosecutor Cristina Caamaño presented findings of an audit of the agency to the Eleventh Federal Criminal and Correctional Court that revealed that agents had monitored and stored personal information of over 400 journalists seeking to cover major international summits held in Buenos Aires in 2017 and 2018. Agents had assembled detailed profiles of individuals who requested accreditation to cover the event, which included photos, employer names, social media profiles and posts, and comments about their political ideology or opinions. Those deemed critical of then president Macri were noted as having a “critical political posture.”136

Cellebrite, an Israel-based digital intelligence company, has supplied federal security forces with tools for hacking into locked mobile devices since the early 2010s.137

Citizens’ personal information contained in the databases of the National Administration of Social Security (ANSES) can be transferred to the Public Communication Secretariat (SCP).138 A court ruled in 2018, however, that ANSES could not share a woman’s phone number and email address with the SCP without the woman’s consent.139

During the Macri administration, the Supreme Court established an Office of Capturing of Communications to intercept communications.140 Digital rights groups raised concerns about the office’s lack of autonomy, especially as it is housed within a criminal-investigation directorate.141

C6 0-6 pts
Does monitoring and collection of user data by service providers and other technology companies infringe on users’ right to privacy? 4 / 6

A number of measures to protect Argentine users’ data and communications are in place, and the courts have upheld rulings that protect privacy.142 However, there are some mechanisms by which service providers and companies can be compelled to provide user information under certain circumstances.

In 2009, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling that 2003 data retention legislation represented a violation of privacy rights.143

A 2013 resolution by the Communications Secretariat of the Ministry of Federal Planning introduced data retention requirements for the purpose of assessing the quality of services, requiring providers to store data related to quality indicators for three years. It states that providers should guarantee the telecommunications regulator “free access” to installations and should provide “all the information that is required in the set manner and timeframe.”144

The Criminal Procedure Code states that, if a judge orders them to do so, communication service providers must be able to immediately intercept data for a period of up to 30 days, with the possibility of an extension. Providers are held criminally liable in cases of noncompliance.145 Companies can be sanctioned for not complying with a provision under the Argentina Digital Act (Law 27.078), which mandates ICT providers share information with competent authorities when requested.146

In March 2022, after the position had been vacant for more than a year, political scientist Beatriz de Anchorena was appointed AAIP director. The appointment was criticized both by civil society organizations and the opposition for de Anchorena’s lack of expertise, as well as doubts about her impartiality due to her past membership in the Patria Institute, a think tank founded and overseen by Fernández de Kirchner.147 The National Auditor General's Office released an audit report on the AAIP that same month concluding that the agency had not developed or implemented tools that effectively protected personal data, highlighting shortcomings in the operation of various national registries.148

In March 2022, the Internal Trade Secretariat issued a resolution extending a prohibition against Meta’s implementation of WhatsApp’s updated terms of service and privacy policy for Argentine users. The resolution, originally issued in May 2021, will be in force until the conclusion of an ongoing investigation into the company’s potential abuse of a dominant market position and possible excessive, unjustified, and exploitative data processing and sharing by WhatsApp.149 The Argentine government also fined Facebook 5 million pesos ($49,500) in January 2022 for including “abusive clauses” in WhatsApp’s privacy policy conditions, which the company used to limit its liability for damages and restrict user rights.150

C7 0-5 pts
Are individuals subject to extralegal intimidation or physical violence by state authorities or any other actor in relation to their online activities? 4 / 5

Violence in reprisal for digital activities is rare, though journalists and activists, including those who work online, are subject to intimidation, harassment, and smear campaigns on social media. The Argentina Forum of Journalism (FOPEA) reported 108 cases of harassment against journalists in 2021, compared to 82 in 2020; 14 cases targeted journalists for digital outlets. Nearly 40 percent of the total cases reported involved physical, psychological, or material harassment, and the first two cases of online sexual violence against women journalists were reported.151

In October 2021, cartoonist Cristian Dzwonik (also known as Nik) received antisemitic messages and threats to his physical safety over Twitter after an exchange with Security Minister Aníbal Fernández on the platform. The exchange began when Nik accused the government of offering handouts to curry favor after an electoral defeat in the September 2021 primary contests. Fernández responded about subsidies allegedly directed to the school Nik’s daughters attended, which the cartoonist considered a veiled threat and press freedom organizations condemned as intimidation.152

Attacks against the offices of newspapers with online portals continued into the coverage period, though there was no evidence that they were in direct retaliation for the outlets’ online activities. In November 2021, assailants firebombed the Buenos Aires headquarters of Grupo Clarín. One detained suspect was identified as a supporter of a pro-Fernández political youth organization. No one was injured and the building sustained minor damage.153 In December 2021, an unidentified group threw firebombs and rocks into the headquarters of El Chubut before ransacking the building. Calls to gather at the newspaper’s headquarters had begun on social media hours before the attack, which was carried out amid protests against a new mining ordinance.154

During the previous coverage period, in March 2021, a group of about 100 individuals stormed the offices of print and online daily newspaper Rio Negro, physically assaulted two staff members, and threatened to kill journalist Luis Leiva. The attack was seen as an attempt to quash further investigative reporting into a leader of the national trade union CTA Autónoma, whose sexual assault and harassment case Leiva had been covering since April 2020.155

Online gender-based violence poses a prominent threat to female users. In June 2021, women journalists behind the La Reacción Conservadora (The Conservative Reaction) investigation reported receiving threats over the phone and having their personal information leaked online after their reporting was published (see C8).156 Amnesty International reported in 2019 that one in three women in Argentina had suffered violence on social media, nearly 60 percent of whom reported receiving sexual or misogynistic comments.157 Female political candidates are especially targeted, including with online smear campaigns.158 A study on social media violence against women and political dissidents during the 2019 electoral campaign, conducted by the Latin American Justice and Gender Team (ELA), reported that 5 percent of tweets interacting with female candidates’ official Twitter accounts included harassment or misogynistic content.159

C8 0-3 pts
Are websites, governmental and private entities, service providers, or individual users subject to widespread hacking and other forms of cyberattack? 1 / 3

Score Change: The score declined from 2 to 1 because a site hosting investigative reporting on a conversative political network was taken offline as the result of a likely technical attack in June 2021.

Government entities and commercial enterprises are particularly vulnerable to ransomware attacks, and digital media outlets have suffered technical attacks in recent years.

In June 2021, a website hosting the results of journalistic investigation La Reacción Conservadora (The Conservative Reaction) was taken offline shortly after it launched. The journalists behind the investigation reported that the site failure was caused by a technical attack,160 though others argued that the site crashed due to a large amount of visitor traffic.161 The website was supposed to display an investigation conducted by feminist journalists on the relationships between conservative political, religious, and social groups and individuals. The investigation sparked controversy due to its inclusion of personal information on the people investigated. The website never went online again but part of the investigation was accessible via other newspapers’ websites.162

Digital media outlets have been victims of technical attacks in the past.163 After a presidential debate in October 2019, Chequeado, which conducts live fact-checking during debates, disclosed an alleged denial-of-service (DoS) attack after their website received over 39 million server requests coming from abroad during a 6-hour time frame before and during the debate.164

Government entities are also sometimes targeted with cyberattacks. In January 2022, the Argentine Senate’s website was targeted with a ransomware attack by the Vice Society, which sought an undisclosed ransom amount. While the Senate initially stressed that only public information available on the website was stolen,165 in March 2022, the Vice Society published files stolen from the site, including legal documents and the personal information of Senate employees in the form of identification numbers, home addresses, signatures, and driver’s licenses.166

In October 2021, information from Renaper, the national agency responsible for the registration and identification of all Argentine citizens, was leaked online. An anonymous hacker claimed to have access to the personal data—including names, photos, addresses, and identification numbers—of 45 million people.167 To substantiate these claims, the attacker published photos and personal details belonging to celebrities and political officials, as well as a file containing data for 60,000 individuals. The attacker offered the complete database for the equivalent of $17,000 in cryptocurrency. The government acknowledged the unauthorized dissemination of personal data but refused to confirm that the whole database was leaked.168 Authorities also denied that a breach of or unauthorized entry into the database had taken place, instead suggesting that the leak occurred after a virtual private network (VPN) account assigned to the Health Ministry had been compromised.169

In November 2021, ransomware group Everest offered to sell access to government documents and several national government intranet systems for $200,000. According to official sources, the case is currently under investigation to confirm the veracity of the incident.170

Individuals have also been targets of cyberattacks. In June 2021, the Twitter account of National Deputy Mario Negri was hacked. Hackers tweeted violent and racist content, as well as insults to politicians from the account.171 In April 2022, the Twitter account of Buenos Aires health minister Nicolás Kreplak was hacked and used to tweet misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine, including one alleging that recipients would turn into robots.172

Commercial entities and service providers have also faced ransomware attacks. During the previous coverage period, in July 2020, hackers demanded $7.5 million in cryptocurrency from Telecom Argentina in exchange for unlocking the nearly 18,000 workstations that they had encrypted using stolen credentials. Telecom Argentina later reported that it regained access without agreeing to the hackers’ demands and vowed that critical services were unaffected.173

Government agencies have sought to strengthen their cybersecurity capacity. The country’s first National Cybersecurity Strategy was launched in May 2019.174 In February 2021, the National Cybersecurity Directorate (DNC) set up the National Computer Security Incident Response Team to coordinate the handling of cybersecurity incidents in the national administration and assist in the case of attacks to critical information infrastructure.175 In June 2021, the DNC issued minimum information security requirements for all national-level public-sector organizations to prevent, detect, manage, resolve, and report cybersecurity incidents that could affect information assets.176