Mexico’s 2024 Elections: A Historic and Contentious Vote

By Bruna Martins dos Santos

On June 2, 2024, approximately 100 million voters in Mexico  participated in the country’s biggest elections ever,electing a new president, together with members of parliament and over 20,000 local officials. But these historic elections have been marred by spiking violence and a challenging online environment in which social media companies continue to be complacent about harmful speech. 

This presidential race was also groundbreaking, with two women among the leading candidates for the role of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) successor and leader of the country. IN A dispute with Xóchitl Gálvez (Strength and Heart for Mexico party), a former senator and tech entrepreneur, and Jorge Álvarez Máynez (Citizen’s Movement), the former mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum (Morena party), was just elected the new president. 

This election period has been marred by unprecedented violence, with over 30 murders of candidates, countless threats against candidates and even kidnappings. Over 200 civil servants, politicians, and candidates have been killed in the lead-up to the vote, raising concerns about the influence of organized crime on the political process. 

Despite the wide use of platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram, only half of Mexico’s 126 million inhabitants have internet access, highlighting a significant digital divide. But when it comes to understanding Mexico’s civic online space, social media companies continue to play a crucial role in the dissemination of misinformation and disinformation, as well as gender-based violence and other types of online harms.

Disinformation has in fact surged in the run-up to the elections, with false claims targeting candidates and stoking polarization – all circulating widely with little to no oversight. And although social media companies have partnered with Mexican electoral authorities and announced efforts such as (a) a chatbot on WhatsApp for reporting false information and (b) an Electoral Guide, the measures are not strong enough to help address the grievous situation in which voters find themselves.

The fact that the two lead contenders for the presidential seat were women opened them up to additional online attacks. On top of run-of-the-mill disinformation, undermining their campaigns or ability to govern, Sheinbaum and Gálvez were also targeted because of their gender.

Additionally, mere days before the ballot some voters reportedly were unsure about how to mark their ballot due to rampant electoral disinformation, which some experts said could have affected the election result.

Though the votes are in already and Claudia Sheinbaum is predicted to become Mexico’s first female president,the challenges of violence, misinformation, and digital divides remain. They also underscore the need for vigilant oversight and meaningful action to ensure a fair and secure voting process in Mexico and Global Majority countries in general. Unfortunately, this election proved to be yet another instance in which Big Tech companies failed to safeguard elections and voters, offering only rehashed measures, doing the bare minimum. 

Social media companies should be more proactive in terms of identifying and debunking electoral disinformation directed at candidates and about elections, as well as AI generated content, and also roll out ‘break the glass’ measures in case of violence escalation, as done in countries like Brazil and India.

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