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President of Ecuador reportedly spent millions in public funds to remove critical videos

Country's intelligence agency contracted Mexican company for nearly $4.7 million, report reveals

Cancillería Ecuador

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa spent millions in public funds to remove content that was critical of him or his wife from YouTube, Facebook, and other sites, according to a report from BuzzFeed News. Documents obtained by BuzzFeed show that Ecuador's national intelligence agency hired a Mexican company to remove the content, including a documentary that was critical of Correa's presidency and a video from one of his wife's former aides who accused her of mistreatment. The company, Emerging MC, was hired on a contract for nearly $4.7 million, and filed weekly reports on its successful takedowns.

Rights groups have accused Correa of free speech violations in the past, and his government has come under criticism for its mass surveillance practices. Notably, the country has provided asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012.

Correa has faced allegations of rights violations

BuzzFeed reports that Ecuador's national intelligence agency, Senain, may have violated constitutionally protected rights to privacy and free speech by hiring contractors to censor criticism. Other material removed by Emerging MC includes political campaign videos that were critical of Correa, a report on a prison break, and a broadcast that accuses the president of ruling like a dictator.

Most items were removed from YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo, and Dailymotionn through takedown requests filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Many were carried out by Ares Rights, a Spanish rights management company. Ares Rights has been accused of working with Correa to remove videos in the past, though both the company and the government have declined to comment on their relationship.