Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — Strategies used to censor information at official Cuban government web-sites are not only varied, they are also employed at the complete discretion of their webmasters. In this post, I will focus on how user comments are censored on these webpages.
The website for Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), represents one of the extremes of this phenomenon, offering absolutely no space where Internet navigators can leave their comments. Apparently the PCC has absolute confidence in its ideas and needs no feedback.
Other government sites, however, have gradually opened themselves up to public opinion and have afforded users varying degrees of freedom of expression.
The site for Cuba’s Juventud Rebelde newspaper, for instance, is one page that offers a fairly broad space for comments by readers, who can express opinions that are diametrically opposed to those presented by the author of a given article.
The norms published by the site are: 1) All comments must be made on the basis of respect towards the opinions of others. 2) No offensive, vulgar or obscene remarks will be tolerated.
The webpage of Trabajadores, the official newspaper of the Cuban Workers’ Federation, limits comments to those who access the site via the Cuban domestic Intranet, and an unrestricted area for those who do so through the Internet. Do they think there are more workers with Internet connections that Intranet access in Cuba?
I recently discovered that the government’s webpage Cubadebate censors some commentators that participate in discussion at its discretion. The interesting thing here is not that certain opinions expressed in commentaries are eliminated because of their critical nature, but that the site directly targets and excludes certain individuals.
I can attest to this because I have tried to post comments at the site on several occasions, adhering to the norms of the page, only to discover my texts aren’t published, even when my opinions coincide with those of other commentators who did manage to have their remarks posted.
Cubadebate’s norms are: All comments that are off-topic or use vulgar, violent or racist language, or are offensive or contrary to the Law in any way, will be eliminated.
I am unsure as to how a comment could be “contrary to the Law”. If I wrote I am against the Cuban Adjustment Act, would I be censored as well? What if I said I was against the Cuban State’s Budget Law?
In addition, Cubadebate also enables and disables an article’s comments window at its discretion. I imagine there are certain authors who hold the absolute truth and cannot be contested in their views in any way.
In short, I don’t see how the technical and financial limitations alluded to by Cuban authorities in connection with the full use of Internet’s potential could have anything to do with this restriction in the use of available technological resources.
In my view, it is a question of censorship, plain and simple. If it isn’t, I’d be more than happy to have someone explain to me what it is.