Monday, February 24, 2014

Not Satisfied With Blocking Twitter and TV, Venezuela Shuts Off the Internet

Not Satisfied With Blocking Twitter and TV, Venezuela Shuts Off the Internet 

It's a familiar narrative at this point: governments facing mass protests tighten their grip on state-run media outlets and internet providers to keep a lid on incriminating information they'd rather not have broadcast to the entire world. 

In Venezuela right now, where protests over food security and the poor economy have snowballed over the past week and become violent riots that have left at least five dead, socialist President Nicolás Maduro’s government is ramping up censorship. Authorities reportedly shut off internet access to a major city and its surrounding area, according to reports collected by EFF last night.

Venezuela’s state-run ISP, CANTV, which controls the majority of the country's internet, cut off traffic to San Cristóbal, the capital city of the state of Tachira and one of the centers of the protests, wrote EFF. I spoke to Marianne Díaz, a lawyer and founder of the activist group Acceso Libre, who said the connection was down throughout the capital and most likely the entire state—a population of over a million.

"We know it was a government mandate because last night, President Maduro gave a speech (a mandatory broadcast in all radio and TV stations) where he (amongst many other things) threatened Tachira, saying he would 'go all in' and that we 'would be surprised' of what he would do, and then internet was cut and tanks went in," Díaz told me over email.

Throughout the last week the government has also restricted TV networks throughout the state, put out fraudulent newspapers promoting the state, and blocked parts of Twitter, Facebook, news sites, and websites of all sorts.

Venezuela has “a pretty tight control over the Internet compared to other countries," Bill Woodcock, an internet traffic expert, told the Washington Post. "Not as tight as Cuba, but probably tighter than anybody else.”

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