Readers may recall after Arab Spring a decade ago. There was intense debate over the role social media platforms had on the uprisings. With summer uprisings in Cuba, the communist government has discovered ways to cut the internet off to millions of residents, so organized protesting on social media is near impossible.
Let’s take a step back to early last week when reports of the Cuban regime used China-made technology systems to block internet and cell phone service to prevent pictures and videos of what was happening on the ground published online near impossible for the outside world to see. The regime also blocked popular social media channels that would make organized protesting impossible.
Remember, a decade ago, during Arab Spring, Facebook and Twitter were critical for organizers to orchestrate uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Bahrain.
The Biden administration is finding ways to provide anti-censorship tools to Cubans to access social media during the blackouts.
According to Bloomberg, the U.S. government supports a censorship circumvention tool designed to unblock content in Cuba and is powered by a company called Psiphon Inc.
As of Thursday, Psiphon tweeted, “1.389 Million daily unique users accessed the open web from Cuba through the Psiphon network. Internet is ON; circumvention tools ARE working.”
Psiphon uses proxy servers that disguise internet traffic so Cuban authorities cannot tell if people are accessing social media platforms. The Toronto-based nonprofit has received money from the U.S. government. Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn tweeted Saturday that the proxy service is working well:
BREAKING: Over 1.3 million Cubans have been able to access the internet today thanks to @PsiphonInc, an open-source tool supported by the bipartisan Open Technology Fund my colleagues and I championed.
We must stand with those opposing authoritarian regimes.
— Sen. Marsha Blackburn (@MarshaBlackburn) July 16, 2021
The Biden administration has been strategizing on other ways to provide the people of Cuba with internet access.
“They have cut off access to the internet. We are considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access,” President Biden said on Friday.
Biden commented after Florida Governor Ron Desantis told the president the federal government should restore internet on the island located in the northern Caribbean Sea.
Desantis said there’s a technology that would allow the U.S. to broadcast internet access into Cuba remotely.
“Technology exists to provide Internet access into Cuba remotely, using the innovation of American enterprise and the diverse industries here,” the governor wrote. He said this reminds him of the Cold War when the U.S. funded radio stations to broadcast information into the Soviet Union.
“Similar to the American efforts to broadcast radio into the Soviet Union during the Cold War in Europe, the federal government has a history of supporting the dissemination of information into Cuba for the Cuban people through Radio & Televisión Martí, located in Miami,” he said.
DeSantis has urged Cuba’s military to “live in the history books” by overthrowing the communist government.
Meanwhile, Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, has attacked the U.S. for their blatant and “shameful” attempts to “fracture” his country by triggering the largest anti-government protests in three decades.