Published On: Fri, Sep 16th, 2016

In Cuba, text messages with controversial content are disappearing

Havana CubaHAVANA - Journalists in Cuba have evidence that the Cuban government is monitoring and selectively blocking mobile SMS messages based on keywords such as “human rights”, “hunger strike”, “plebiscite” and “state security”.

According to a report by journalists Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar, who run the Havana-based media outlet 14ymedio, text messages containing a range of sensitive keywords along with the names of various high-profile anti-Castro activists, are not reaching their destinations. However, the messages still appear as ‘sent’ on the sender’s telephone.

According to technologist and opposition blogger Eliécer Avila, at least 30 keywords have been identified as triggers for the blocking mechanism. It is not clear how long this has been in place. The journalists have not yet shared a full list of terms tested, nor did they indicate whether they believe the blocking targets specific users.

Sánchez, Escobar and Avila are all very high-profile opposition voices.

The discovery comes at a moment in which Cuban bloggers and independent journalists are facing increasing scrutiny and, in some cases, public condemnation, by leading government and Cuban communist party officials.

Diario de Cuba writer Maykel González Vivero, who is also a vocal advocate for LGBT rights on the island, was fired from his job with state radio station Radio Sagua two weeks ago, for collaborating with “private media”.

In late August, the well-established Uruguayan blogger and former BBC journalist Fernando Ravsberg, who has lived in Cuba since the mid-1990s and has a family there, was publicly condemned on television by the vice president of Cuba’s Press Workers’ Union, charged with offending the sentiments of “decent Cubans.”

This article originally appeared on Global Voices on September 15, 2016.

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