Cuba’s government has restricted access to social media in the country amid raging protests over economic turmoil stemming from the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Beginning on Monday, NetBlocks, an organisation that tracks and reports internet access, confirmed that messaging and social media apps including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Telegram had all been at least partially restricted on the island, with some access in Havana lacking access to mobile data entirely.
The sudden social media crackdown is likely a ploy by the government to disrupt communications as protests — already a rare occurrence for a country like Cuba, where dissident is closely monitored and controlled — continue to rage on the island. As NetBlocks director Alp Toker told Reuters, the specific pattern of observable restrictions “… indicate an ongoing crackdown on messaging platforms used to organise and share news of protests in real-time. At the same time, some connectivity is preserved to maintain a semblance of normality.”
Confirmed: Social media and messaging platforms restricted in #Cuba from Monday on state-run internet provider ETECSA; real-time network data corroborate reports of internet disruptions amid widening anti-government protests; incident ongoing ????#CubaSOS
— NetBlocks (@netblocks) July 12, 2021
According to Reuters, the unrest had largely been quelled on Sunday but surged again on Monday in the southern Havana suburb of La Guinera after one man was killed and several others were hospitalized with injuries stemming from the violence.
The protests have erupted as a deep economic crisis has bloomed in Cuba, resulting in power outages and a widespread shortage of basic goods on the Communist-run island. Cuba’s government has been loud in its insinuations that the protests had been planned in concert with the United States, deliberately stoking still-burning tensions stemming from the decades-old U.S. trade embargo that left the island nation financially stunted.
When asked flat-out whether or not the government had moved to deliberately restrict access to internet connectivity and social media, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said during a news briefing the answer was “complicated,” and said that the ongoing power outages could have caused disrupted access to telecommunications services.