Cuba is blocking freedom of speech by blocking text messages that contain keywords.
Despite making huge strides in reconnecting with the United States, Cuba still has a long way to go before the country becomes a democratic nation that’s fair for its citizens.
With their complicated Communist history and the tensions with other nations, it’s no surprise that the metaphorical book-burning is still continuing within the nation in the form of blocked text messages.
Rather than burning books that contain “dangerous” ideas, texts that contain an estimated 30 keywords, such as “democracy,” “human rights,” and “hunger strike” are reportedly being blocked within the country.
Prominent blogger Yoani Sanchez and journalist Reinaldo Escobar published a report (in Spanish) and helped conduct an investigation into the filtered texts in an attempt to discover what keywords weren’t allowed. They also found that when “Somos Mas” (We Are More), an opposition group that was involved in the text investigation, was included in texts, their transmission was blocked as well.
“We always thought texts were vanishing because the provider is so incompetent, then we decided to check using words that bothered the government,” said Eliecer Avila, head of Somos Mas. He added, “We discovered not just us but the entire country is being censored. It just shows how insecure and paranoid the government is.”
It might just be paranoia, but the implications of blocking text messages, and therefore free speech, are huge. The few citizens that are actually wealthy enough to have access to internet and text messages are still being restricted, and activists suspect that there are even more terms that are being intercepted and denied.
A lack of free speech is commonly reported on when discussion of Cuba’s restrictions arises, as the nation continues to regulate books, newspapers, radio channels, television, movies, and music. Censorship is used as a way to better ensure that revolts against the government don’t occur, and by blocking texts they can make sure that revolutionary ideas aren’t coming from outside the country as well. While this may be optimal for the government, it also works against the freedom of the citizens.
Additionally, the Cuban government has long been accused of human rights abuses and more horrific treatment of its citizens, including mass executions of counter-revolutionaries. Though blocking messages is not as severe, it’s just one piece of the Communist puzzle that gives insight into how the oppressive government is still working to keep its citizens restricted.
The country has the lowest mobile phone penetration in Latin America, but the renewed relations between the US and Cuba have caused the Communist country to agree to reduce fares for phones and increase broadband access.
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