Amid deepening poverty, escalating COVID cases and a lack of vaccines, Cubans are doing something very brave: protesting against the Communist dictatorship in the largest demonstrations in six decades.
I can’t even imagine how afraid they must be, but they’re out there. And activists need to be able to coordinate with each other. The Cuban government knows this, so they’ve taken a cue from dictatorships in Iran, Myanmar and elsewhere: restricting the internet.
Cuba’s government has disrupted access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Telegram and YouTube, per London-based watchdog NetBlocks. These disruptions have gone on for over a week so far and show no signs of ending.
As an American with a love of freedom and a background in tech, I thought I’d research some options for our Cuban friends:
- Alternative social platforms: Twitter is not yet blocked, although it could be at any time. Less used video platforms like Vimeo or Dailymotion are also available.
- Privacy tools: VPN’s continue to work, as does Signal, the encrypted messaging app used by Edward Snowden. This could be a superb WhatsApp alternative. Tor is a great option for browsing. It’s available for desktop or mobile in a convenient browser form. It routes data through many servers, making your traffic untraceable. Unlike most VPN’s, Signal and Tor are free. I use them myself.
- Satellites: Not viable. These need ground infrastructure that Cuba doesn’t have and their government won’t allow.
- Balloons: Much discussed and a great potential solution, but I fear the implementation will take too long to be of use to Cubans. These balloons exist today, cost in the tens of thousands (chump change to the US government), and float in international airspace. They could be positioned over international waters as well.
Cuba would be taking an extreme step to shoot them down, if they could even accomplish it. And in any case, we could always launch many, many more.
If anyone knows of any good charities working on these issues, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. I’d be happy to contribute to any good effort in this area.
Patria y vida, amigos!
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