In Cuba, the internet is only available at certain access points, and these points are controlled by the government. Even phones block certain keywords. Historically, the internet is seen as a way for outsiders, especially Americans, to infiltrate the country. This article will explore the extent and effects of internet censorship in the communist-controlled island.
Censorship of websites
There is only a limited amount of functionality once Cuban citizens do manage to get online. For example, communication apps and software like Skype are blocked, most likely using technology from the Chinese. Since China has a long history of restricting the internet, it’s no surprise that much of the infrastructure that the island has is of Chinese origin. Filtering keywords are a major way that the government seeks to limit the internet. Sites are blocked if they contain criticism of the government. Anything to do with human rights is also restricted. In a move that can be seen as either smart or a violation of rights, sites that deal with getting around censorship tools are also blocked.
Many times, the user does not know why the particular site is blocked. They receive a generic error message, which could indicate that the site is down, or that there is a problem with their network. This means that they do not even know many times that they were the subject of censorship. In addition to blocking specific keywords, the government also checks browsing history. To go even further, it may come as a surprise to most people that it isn’t just consuming or downloading of information that is restricted. The restriction goes both ways. Only users who are pro-government can upload content to the internet.
The effects of a censored internet
An often-overlooked effect of the censorship of the internet is how it affects education. After all, the web is the largest place to share information in the present day. Cuba has an outstanding history of educated nationals, according to UNESCO. Yet restrictions on both freedom of expression and access to information continue. Even the Cuban version of Wikipedia, EcuRed, has entries that defame human rights activists, and in a way act as propaganda machines for the political powers.
Google has opened a technology cafe in Havana. In addition to providing Chromebooks, the tech giant also put virtual reality viewers in place. In their words, it was going to be helpful to children who wanted to see historical sites around the world. As relations with America normalize, there will probably be more done by companies like Google. There seems to be a slight expansion of access happening in the recent past. Freedom House reports that the number of WiFi access points grew, and that prices dropped so they are cheaper to access. There was also a pilot home internet program launched in part of the city of Havana on a test basis. These 2,000 households may be at the forefront of a new revolution. Or, maybe not.