Cuban Government May Have Blocked SMS Access to Twitter
Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who operates under the Twitter account @yoanisanchez, reported from Cuba tonight that Cuban citizens have been unable to publish to the social media site using SMS text messages since last Friday. The Maria Moors Cabot and Ortega y Gasset award recipient explains that it was only today that she and other bloggers realized the tweets they had been sending via SMS since Friday had not been published after followers noticed the three-day silence from Havana. Cuban bloggers regularly post updates to Twitter using their cell phones by sending an SMS text message, but are unable to see whether their tweets have been posted, nor read anyone else’s updates. As of Tuesday night, Cuban bloggers had not been able to confirm whether Twitter was experiencing a technical glitch or other problem that could explain the service interruption.
At a time when European governments are preparing for a fierce debate over the EU’s “common position” toward Cuba at their October 25th meeting of Foreign Ministers, confirmation that it has moved to block SMS access to Twitter from the island could all but kill the Spanish government’s chances of seeing the policy lifted. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and his Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos have made the lifting of the “common position” toward Cuba a foreign policy priority of their government. Likewise, a further clamp down on social media (Twitter’s website has been blocked in Cuba for some time) could also be detrimental to efforts to increase the effectiveness of U.S. policy toward the island. Such a move would certainly give ammunition to defenders of the status quo to argue against any measures that would help reduce the isolation of the Cuban people. Ironically, such a move would only help the Cuban government in its ongoing efforts to further isolate the Cuban people from the outside world.
The Cuban government cannot pretend to make inroads on the human rights front by releasing political prisoners on the one hand, and clamping down on personal expression on the other. If Raul Castro was sincere when he stated that he wanted a new relationship with the United States and expects European nations to change their common position toward the island, then his actions need to speak louder than his words. Additionally, in the technology and social media space, Cuba needs to move forward, not backwards. It is already lagging behind in the penetration rates of internet and social media technologies.
Is the Cuban government really so afraid of 140 characters in cyberspace?
Yoani Sanchez has suggested the following Twitter hashtag to accompany Tweets regarding this issue: