Americans might be flying to Cuba now, but democracy sure isn’t. This week reports surfaced that the island’s communist government is intercepting text messages containing the Spanish words for democracy, human rights, and hunger strike, among others.
An investigation by opposition activists found at least 30 keywords that triggered the blocking, Reuters reported. Texts containing the offending language failed to reach their intended recipients.
Eliecer Avila, head of opposition youth group Somos Mas, initially assumed that the texts went missing thanks to the country’s poor cell networks.
“We always thought texts were vanishing because the provider is so incompetent, then we decided to check using words that bothered the government,” he told Reuters. “We discovered not just us but the entire country is being censored. It just shows how insecure and paranoid the government is.”
Cell phone service in Cuba is provided by the state-run telecom carrier ETECSA, which could not be reached for comment on the reports of text blocking.
Cuba has accused pro-democracy activists of conspiring with the US to overthrow the communist government. Though cell phone and Internet access isincreasingly available to Cubans and visitors, it is unreliable and often filtered, according to activists.
Cuba’s top blogger and dissident, Yoani Sánchez, who participated in the text blocking investigation, has had his website blocked in Cuba. But other activists, such as Robin Pedraja, who publishes Vistar Magazine, say they enjoy a largely harmonious relationship with government officials.
“They don’t kill ideas anymore,” Pedraja told PCMag earlier this year. “They care about us because we represent the voice of a new generation.”
For more on the challenges of Internet access and mobile communications in Cuba, check out PCMag’s special report, Black Markets and Secret Thumb Drives: How Cubans Get Online.