The Spanish government will be able to send messages by WhatsApp, Telegram and other applications to the population in exceptional situations, according to the preliminary draft of the Telecommunications Act.
“This exceptional and transitional power of direct management or intervention may affect any infrastructure, associated resource or element or level of the network or service that is necessary to preserve or restore public order, public safety or national security,” states the text of the preliminary draft, as reported by the digital newspaper Vozpopuli.
According to the draft, “this power will only be exercised with respect to providers of interpersonal communications services when they are assigned the obligation to transmit public alerts in the event of major catastrophes or imminent or ongoing emergencies.”
The draft proposes a specific intervention by law in communication services such as Whatsapp and Telegram, which operate from outside Spain and pose more problems. For this reason, the Government wants to be able to order them to broadcast messages and alerts that they consider appropriate during an exceptional situation.
What is an exceptional situation? Many people fear the government will use this power to quell legitimate protests or acts of civil disobedience in the future. Whether this law will be used against dissenting and peaceful protesters is still unknown, but the experience in other countries shows that this type of law is likely to be used against the population in the foreseeable future.