'Anti-Meme Law:' Internet Users Could Face Jail for Posting 'Malicious' Messages Online

A person checks his computer in a Wi-Fi cafe in Mexico City, on May 09, 2010. Politicians in the Mexican state of Veracruz voted on legislation that could send people to jail for posting memes. Omar Torres/AFP/Getty

Politicians in the Mexican state of Veracruz have passed legislation this week that could send people to jail for posting memes and other "harmful or malicious" images, videos and messages online.

Critics are calling the reforms proposed by left-wing congressman José Kirsch Sánchez the "anti-meme law." Kirsch Sánchez, however, said that the reforms protect ordinary citizens from being attacked on the internet.

Under the reforms, which lawmakers unanimously passed, internet users may face "from six months to two years in prison, and up to one hundred days of work in favor of the community" for spreading "harmful or malicious information about another person" that could "damage their reputation or self-esteem."

Veracruz Governor Miguel Angel Yunes plans to veto the law—which some say is an attempt by politicians to stop themselves from being mocked—calling the reforms "unconstitutional for violating the freedom of expression of the people of Veracruz," according to The Independent.

Selma Guadalupe Gomez Cabrera became a meme when the congresswoman tried to pass similar legislation in 2015 in the western state of Sonora. Under Gomez Cabrera's failed proposal, lawbreakers would have faced a $1,600 fine.

Veracruz's legislation comes a little over a week after Sweden's advertising watchdog ruled that the viral "distracted boyfriend" meme is sexist, reported Time. The meme shows a picture of a man looking at another woman walking while his girlfriend gives him a startled stare. The watchdog ruled on the case after internet provider Bahnhof used the meme to announce job openings on Facebook. The company placed the word "You" over the man, "Your current employer" over his upset girlfriend, and "Bahnhof" over the passing woman.

"The advertisement objectifies women. It presents women as interchangeable items and suggests only their appearance is interesting.... It also shows degrading stereotypical gender roles of both men and women and gives the impression men can change female partners as they change jobs," the watchdog said, according to Time.

Last month, EU lawmakers passed a copyright law some critics say may impede internet freedom and bring an end to the sharing of memes. The law could make companies like Facebook and Google install filters that would block users from uploading copyrighted material.

"I am convinced that once the dust has settled, the internet will be as free as it is today, creators and journalists will be earning a fairer share of the revenues generated by their works, and we will be wondering what all the fuss was about," Axel Voss, a member of the European Parliament, said in a statement following the vote, according to CNBC.