Socialist politicians in Venezuela are proposing a project that would force all Venezuelans to use an internet emanating from a single government-controlled server, as a way to prevent citizens from using Google, Twitter, and other social media to access sites that publish material unfavorable to the government.
In a television broadcast, legislator Juan Carlos Alemán claimed the government had launched two satellites into space this month, one with the intention of helping develop a Venezuelan government server. The satellite would help “finish materializing this technological platform in order [for the government] to have independence in this and control the material out there.”
Alemán revealed the plan following a question regarding the website Dolar Today, which publishes black market trading rates for the national currency, the bolívar. Officials contend that Dolar Today’s publication of actual exchange rates for the bolívar are scaring Venezuelans into behaviors that are weakening the currency.
The largest denomination of the bolívar, a 100-bolívar bill, is currently worth $0.47. The steep decline has resulted in foreign companies agreeing to do business in Venezuela only if they can do it in U.S. dollars, which leaves many Venezuelans unable to buy foreign cars, flights out of the country, or other goods and services.
Rather than strengthen the economy by bolstering businesses and dropping rations on basic needs like vegetable oil and milk, socialist officials are proposing all sorts of innovative ways to block Dolar Today, as the website does not exclusively report on economics.
In addition to Bolívar black market exchange rates, Dolar Today publishes notes on Venezuelan politics. Its top story today highlights a protest in front of Maduro’s residence, the Miraflores Palace, with the headline “Follow Their Example, Venezuela!” A story on Maduro ending his regular television show to cede the state TV spot to socialist propaganda in anticipation of legislative elections is headlined “Shameless Corruption!”
Another project in the works by the nation’s socialist overlords is the “Nation Network” (“Red Patria”), series of six apps designed to replace capitalist products like Facebook, Twitter, and Whatsapp. Transferring social media use to a government-sponsored series of social media networks would allow the government to monitor what every citizen posts and discusses with friends on the networks. Ironically, the government has claimed the Nation Network is necessary to keep other nations from spying on their citizens: “it is an alternative tool to commercial social media — Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, et al — used by some governments to accumulate information, control, and spy on citizens in different countries.”
Control of the internet is critical for the socialist government, whose decline in popularity following the arrests of major political dissidents — including opposition party leader Leopoldo López, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma, and San Cristóbal Mayor Daniel Ceballos, among others — has only been accelerated by the nation’s fiscal woes. 54.9 percent of Venezuelans had access to the internet in 2013 according to recent statistics, and both opposition leaders and the socialist government are extremely active on Twitter.