Two City of Buenos Aires legislators saw themselves embroiled in controversy yesterday after presenting a bill that would have allowed City prosecutors to suspend or block websites and apps that violate local law. It was difficult not to see this as an effort to block Uber, considering local regulation sees the app as illegal. Oh, and also because Claudio Palmeyro, one of the lawmakers who sponsored the measure, is a board member of the taxi drivers’ union.
Más leo sobre el proyecto de bloqueo de sitios de Internet en la ciudad, más pienso que tiene que ver con Uber (y los que vengan)
— Enrique Carrier (@enriquecarrier) 31 de agosto de 2016
“The more I read about this bill to block websites in the City, the more I think it has to do with Uber,” said in this tweet Enrique Carrier, a telecommunications analyst.
Faced with immediate widespread outcry, the legislators quickly amended the bill’s approach. The focus will now be to fight child pornography and human trafficking, reported journalist Sebastián Davidovsky, t
Lo van a modificar orientado al combate de la pornografía infantil y trata. Lo giran a Comisión de Mujer, Infancia, Adolescencia y Juventud
— Sebastián Davidovsky (@vidusky) 31 de agosto de 2016
“They’re going to modify it so that it is focused on fighting child pornography and human trafficking. They’re sending it to the special committee in charge of overseeing women, childhood, adolescence and youth issues,” he said.
Although putting the focus on child pornography and human trafficking would undoubtedly make it harder to object to the bill, the question of whether prosecutors would still be able to block other websites, ehem Uber, remains.
Moreover, the law’s original wording doesn’t make it clear if the measure would have suspended or blocked internet access for those who accessed the website or whether the website itself would be taken down. It’s not entirely clear if these things are even technically possible either, but we won’t get into technicalities.
What is clear though is that this initial effort to get the bill through demonstrates how the taxi unions continue fighting full force against Uber.
The Buenos Aires City Government has sided with taxis throughout the whole controversy and has done several things to prevent Uber from operating in Argentina’s capital:
- The City’s judiciary ordered blocks on credit cards used to obtain Ubers.
- The City’s Attorney General’s Office has requested the National Communications Agency (ENACOM) to ban Uber’s website and app in the country.
- The City Government has also made the decision to tow all vehicles found working for the app.
The app has continued to operate.