Cuba like China and other censored countries, has locked down a large majority of internet and application services. Skype is blocked in Cuba, as well as dozens of other websites.
A report from the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) found that 41 different websites are blocked in the country, and a large majority of them are blocked due to criticizing the Castro regime. Sites that advocate civil liberties, like the Freedom House website, are also blocked.
The founders of the study, Simone Basso, Maria Xynou, and Arturo Filasto expected to find some level of censorship in the country. “Prior to traveling to Cuba, we had heard that sites expressing political criticism had been reported to be blocked,” but it’s “interesting to collect data showing the scale of sites—expressing criticism and defending human rights—actually blocked”.
OONI published an interesting graph showing what types of websites are blocked in Cuba. From the graph, we can see that a majority of sites are news websites, sites containing political criticism on the internet, and other controversial humane issues like “human rights” and “religion”. I would wager that a similar graph could show similar representations of censorship in countries like China that claim it’s “protecting it’s people” when in fact it–like Cuba, is largely protecting the government’s reputation.
While Skype is blocked, some websites like Facebook and Whatsapp are surprisingly still active. However, lower tier cuban-based VPNs and certain anonymity tools and their websites have been blocked in some cases.
Other companies outside the Government are also forced to restrict access to Cuba due to the active economic embargo. A Google spokesperson clarified the issue: “there are a number of restrictions on Google’s ability to offer our full range of platforms and services in every region. For example, in compliance with US law, a number of services aren’t available within certain countries including Cuba.” Ironically, Google is one of the first outside internet service providers to bring servers into the country.
OONI also admits that the survey was limited in scope to around 1500 sites, which means they could have found more blocked websites with a bigger study. “It’s hard to be truly representative and therefore this methodology likely includes some bias in terms of what is tested,” the OONI researchers said. “In practice what this means is that we might have missed some sites that are blocked.”
In Cuba, a large amount of Cuban citizens don’t have access to internet because it’s so expensive. 61 percent of Cuban citizens earn less than $100 a month, and using the internet costs roughly $1 a hour. Due to high internet costs, and low wages, only 37 percent of the population gets online, according to World Bank.
This means that internet censorship in Cuba isn’t that advanced, like in China, but rather implemented in the form of self-censorship. Cuba also owns the largest ISP in the state, which means blocking sites for users is relatively easy, if simple to get around with a VPN service like TorGuard.
However, OONI researches are worried that Cuba might improve censorship in the country as more and more Cubans begin accessing the internet.