Cuba Shuts Down Internet to Silence Citizens, Hide Ongoing Protests

TOPSHOT - A man connects to internet from his mobile phone in Havana, on March 17, 2019, with a sign depicting Cuban late leader Fidel Castro in the background. - A new civil society emerges in Cuba with mobile phones having internet, defying six decades of unanimity. (Photo by YAMIL …
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Cuba’s state-run telecom monopoly ETECSA restricted access to major social media platforms and messaging apps on Monday as part of temporary internet shutdowns meant to quell anti-government protests across the island, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Tuesday.

“On Monday, Cuban authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram,” Alp Toker, the director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring firm, told the AP on July 13.

“This does seem to be a response to social media-fueled protest,” he said.

While the microblogging website Twitter “did not appear to be blocked,” as of July 12, Toker “noted Cuba could cut it off if it wants to.”

“On Sunday [July 11], all of Cuba went offline for less than 30 minutes, after which there were several hours of intermittent but large [internet] outages,” Doug Madory, the director of internet analysis for Kentik, a network management company, told the AP on July 13.

NetBlocks reviewed Cuban network data and “confirm[ed] partial disruption to social media and messaging platforms in Cuba from 12 July 2021.”

“The targeted restrictions are likely to limit the flow of information from Cuba following widespread protests on Sunday [July 11] as thousands rallied against the socialist government,” the London-based internet monitor wrote in a blog post. “The restrictions are ongoing as of Tuesday the 13th midmorning local time.”

“NetBlocks metrics show that communications platforms WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and as well as some Telegram servers are disrupted,” according to the internet watchdog. Cubans only have access to government-owned telecommunications services, all of which are affected.

Cuba’s most recent internet blockages began on the same day Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel told reporters he blamed an alleged social media “campaign” for instigating the country’s anti-government protests starting Sunday.

“As if pandemic outbreaks had not existed all over the world, the Cuban-American mafia, paying very well on social networks to influencers and YouTubers, has created a whole campaign … and has called for demonstrations across the country,” President Díaz-Canel said during a nationally televised appearance on July 12 “in which his entire Cabinet was present,” according to the AP. “Mafia” is a common Communist Party term for the Cuban-American exile community, comprised almost entirely of victims of the violent Party’s 62-year rule.

“We’ve seen how the campaign against Cuba was growing on social media in the past few weeks,” he added. “That’s the way it’s done: Try to create inconformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.”

Cuba’s state-mandated internet shutdown has severely limited the amount of information protesters have been able to share about ongoing anti-government demonstrations over the past 24 hours. Mass protests began in Cuba on Sunday, attracting thousands of Cubans simultaneously across dozens of cities to “demand an end to communism,” Breitbart News reported on Tuesday.

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