Saturday, June 13, 2009

The closed WEB (interview with a Cuban in China)

Since when have you lived in China?

- I came here at the end of 2008.

When you were living in Cuba did you have access to the Internet or email? How did it work?

- I had access to the internet and email at my work. But the connection was the worst, such that basically I didn’t use it except for pages like Wikipedia, that loaded easily enough, and some others, but not much.

Did you know of the existence of any blogs or read them? How

- I knew of the existence of blogs, but I didn’t read any, for the reason I told you: my connection was very slow, and many pages wouldn’t load.

Do you have the Internet in China? What blogs and sites do you frequent?

- I have Internet and I frequent many sites, some of them are blogs: Generation Y, Octavo Cerco, Bloggers Cuba (one of the very few sites where you can converse, without the fanatics on one side or the other screaming).

It’s been a week more or less since you told me you couldn’t access some sites. Can you tell me which and since when?

- I realized it when I tried to enter Octavo Cerco and couldn’t. With Youtube I’d already had problems, but since I could access it intermittently I thought it was something wrong with Youtube and not here, but later I found out it was in the whole of China. At times I look for images on Google and the page that loads is that they are blocked. I know they’ve blocked Hotmail recently (many Chinese use MSN, so there was quite an outcry), and they’ve blocked Twitter, Flickr and some other sites of this type. Every time I find I can’t access some site, now I realize it’s because of this, because when I use proxies I can access them. Ah! Several pages of proxies are also blocked. Finally, when the error message on trying to access a site is so common, now I know it’s not my web provider, it’s the whole country.

Do you know any Chinese bloggers or read any alternative blogs> Do you know what platforms they use?

- I don’t know any Chinese bloggers, nor what platforms they use, but I suppose that they use Blogspot and Wordpress like almost everyone else.

In your opinion, why do you think they’ve blocked these sites?

- Here there’s a big campaign against pornography and things like that, so they block a lot of sites for that. Also, there are things here you can’t talk about, and the pages relating to those things are blocked. Outside of that, I don’t know the other reasons, but the fact is that Internet censorship here is widespread.

In addition to the censorship and the blocking that the Cuban government imposes on certain Internet sites: email, information portals, navigators and blogger platforms; now Microsoft has blocked MSN Messenger for all users inside Cuba and on Facebook there was on-line voting where one of the issues they addressed was the exclusion of “friends” from inside Cuba. What do you think of these measures? Do you think they could work as points of pressure to get the Cuban government to reduce censorship or not?

- They annoy me, they only make life more complicated for us. In Cuba, any additional click you have to make on the Internet is a misdemeanor. In addition, I don’t think they do anything in terms of pressure to ease the censorship. In the end, those affected by this measure in Cuba are going to be almost nobody: those who have the Internet at a speed that’s fast enough to access these pages. In fact, it’ll piss them off because sites like Facebook provide a way to break the censorship, and I have no doubt that through these channels, with the cooperation of “Radio Bemba” – Cuban’s gossip network – many people find out things about what’s going on in Cuba which they wouldn’t learn in any other way.

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