Chile’s “Anti-Meme” Bill Backfires, Provokes Social-Media Outrage

EspañolOn July 3, Chilean Deputy Jorge Sabag introduced a bill to penalize those who insult government officials on the internet. The “anti-meme” bill caused such an uproar on social media that the parliamentarian later retracted his position during a radio interview on Friday morning. “The proposal was a mistake,” he said.

On social networks, users still mock the “bill to amend the penal code to enhance the protection of the dignity of the authorities” (#LeyCTM), which sought to punish threats or insults with imprisonment and “a fine of 11 to 15 monthly tax units.”

This is the CTM that is worried about banning foolish things instead of working like he should.

The Christian Democrat (DC) representative was questioned on Friday on FM Radio Sonar regarding critical points of the bill. He told the station that the bill was a mistake and that he hadn’t checked “what they [his advisors] had written.” He said he was no longer interested in pursuing the bill’s approval.

Despite Sabag’s statements that the bill would be dropped, questions remain regarding who originally wrote the proposal and what initially prompted the legislation.

The bill, as currently written, seeks to “preserve the honor” of government authorities. “There must be an ongoing educational effort regarding their relevance and dignity to ensure the stability of the democratic system,” the bill read.

Besides Jorge Sabag, the proposal was supported by legislators Marcelo Chávez Velasquez (DC), José Manuel Edwards (National Renewal), Daniel Farcas (Party for Democracy), Ivan Norambuena (Independent Democratic Union), Sergio Ojeda (DC), and José Pérez (Radical Social Democratic Party).
Here, Sabag’s advisers writing the #LeyTCM.

#LeyTCM: Introduces a bill. Withdraws it because he didn’t read it.

Had the bill passed, it would have added the following text to Article 255 of the Chilean Criminal Code: “Those engaging in threats or uttering insults against authority via electronic platforms, either textual or graphical, considered aggravated if not done with their true identity or having attempted to hinder the identification of the computer from which the message is broadcast.”

In this way, the document stated, the importance of protecting authority would be recognized. Government officials would have continued to receive such protections even after their terms in office had expired to avoid “offensive acts against them which also affect the dignity of republican institutions.”

Deputy Sabag will withdraw the bill because the term “insults via electronic platforms” is meaningless apart from it.

Deputy Matias Walker (DC) told La Tercera that his colleague had phoned him to inform him of the decision to not proceed with the bill.

“His original goal was to punish threats to authorities, such as tax officials, the president, or Supreme Court justices, which have often been attacked. [For example], what happened with President Bachelet when she was spit at during the campaign.”

However, Walker explained that only a part of the bill had sparked controversy. “There was a passage that caused controversy regarding insults over electronic platforms. The original intentions was to punish threats and not memes or other things meant to be humorous. However, to avoid a distortion of the original bill, [Sabag] withdrew the legislation.”

The legislator added that the bill may be rewritten to remove the section regarding insults and reintroduced with the language with respect to threats as currently written.

Translated by Adam Dubove.

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