Cuba government filtering mobile text messages, dissidents say
September 5, 2016
By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba's Communist government is filtering mobile phone
text messages for key words such as "democracy" and "human rights" and
then blocking them, dissidents said on Monday.
An investigative report by blogger Yoani Sanchez and journalist Reinaldo
Escobar concluded that text messages failed to reach their destinations
if they contained Spanish words for democracy, human rights or hunger
strike, among others, as well as the names of some dissidents.
Eliecer Avila, head of opposition youth group Somos Mas, which
participated in the investigation, said 30 key words that triggered the
blocking had been identified but there could be more.
"We always thought texts were vanishing because the provider is so
incompetent, then we decided to check using words that bothered the
government," he said.
"We discovered not just us but the entire country is being censored," he
said. "It just shows how insecure and paranoid the government is."
It was not clear for how long the filter had been in place.
The full report was published by Sanchez's online newspaper, 14YMedio.com.
State telecommunications monopoly ETECSA could not be reached for comment.
Cuba has repeatedly charged that the United States wants to use
telecommunications to subvert the government and brands Sanchez and
other opponents as mercenaries working with Washington.
Reuters on Monday unsuccessfully tried to send messages containing the
words "democracy," "human rights," "Somos Mas" and Yoani Sanchez. Other
messages containing the Spanish word for "protest" went through. The
messages that did not reach their destinations appeared as "sent" on the
Cuba arrived late to modern telecommunications, authorizing mobile
phones in 2008 and Wi-Fi internet access only last year. Online, it
blocks dissident websites and media it believes to be funded by the
United States, but permits the websites of critical newspapers such as
El Nuevo Herald and El Pais.
There currently are about 3 million mobile telephone accounts with local
provider CubaCell, which is part of ETECSA.
Despite efforts by the Obama administration to link U.S. internet
providers with the country as part of a detente begun in December 2014,
Cuban authorities appear more interested in working with Russia on
cyber-security, while China provides most of the Caribbean island's
Experts estimate that between 25 percent and 30 percent of Cuba's 11.2
million residents has some Internet access, mainly through Wi-Fi, though
it is sparsely used because of high rates.
Some 5 percent of the population enjoys home-based Internet, which
requires special government permission.
(Editing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Bill Trott)
Source: Cuba government filtering mobile text messages, dissidents say -