Coming July 29th, Cuban society is going to become “computerized” and new censorship regulations are going to take place that drastically alter how free speech and internet content will be blocked moving forward.
According to the Cuban government, the new internet changes are nothing more than a matter of “legal regulations that allow the implementation and legislation of the new computerization policy of Cuban society, which was already passed in 2017.” However, as we’ve seen in Russia, China, and several other places like Egypt, Turkey and Iran—just to name a few, which block content online, online regulation is never quite just as simple or as innocent in it’s objectives as it seems.
The Cuban internet policies that are now coming into fruition have building for some time. Now, the Cuban government’s stance on the internet will just become official in terms of legal documents with a set code of offenses. That doesn’t mean that the laws make a clear foundation and a transparent code of law moving forward. The censorship laws, like any censorship laws, are filled with gaps, holes, and areas for the government to leverage their power to control the press and thus the people themselves.
The new laws have several goals, some of which are to increase the power of the government through the internet to protect against cybercrime. The new regulations give the government the power to ““increase technological sovereignty for the benefit of society, the national economy, security and defense,” and to “counteract cyber-attacks.” Furthermore, the government also wants to use its power to counteract the “dissemination of information, via public data sharing networks, which goes against social interest, morale and people’s decency and integrity.”
The new powers will give the state complete control to determine what goes against the people’s social interest as well as define what is moral and decent. The state is going beyond what one might think of as a normal state power—restricted to national security and the sort. Instead the new powers look to be absolute, without any balance or counterweights or checks and balances.
The new laws also make sure to prohibit outside interference by limiting the ability to “host a site on servers located in a foreign country, other than servers that mirror or replicate the main site servers located in national territory”.
So, by keeping everything within country, it will be possible to control everything—in theory. Not only that, but the Cuban government also wants to exert more total control by forcing the use of “priority” applications to be on mobile phones sold in Cuba—like an ecommerce app or a Cuban antivirus program. These applications could monitor personal data, store it, and could even result in privacy violations in the case of government data leaks.
The need for laws and regulations is undoubtedly something every government needs to focus on but creating laws and regulations with the base intent to control power and to censor citizens is entirely backwards.
Cuba looks to yet another country turning towards censorship in order to deal with the vast presence of the internet. What country will be next?