By Elaine Diaz Rodriguez (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – If a Cuban citizen residing in the country decides to start a blog on WordPress, Medium or any other free Internet service, he/she could be fined up to 1,000 pesos (CUP), around 40 USD. This is stated in articles 68 and 69 of the new Decree-Law 370 of 2018 for the computerization of Cuban society, which just took effect.
The decree, approved by the State Council without going through the National Assembly, states as a violation “hosting a site on servers located in a foreign country, other than servers that mirror or replicate the main site servers located in national territory.”
In conversations with two officials of the Ministry of Communications, both confirmed that the resolution applies to natural persons.
“If I have a blog on WordPress and I do not want to put it on a national server, can I be fined?” I asked. “It is a violation and you can be fined if they detect it,” they replied.
In Cuba there is a single blog hosting service, the Reflejos platform, organized by the Youth Computer and Electronics Club. This host explicitly censors content that “denigrates the work of the Revolution in any sphere, its leaders, the Government and the State, the work of the Communist Party of Cuba, the Communist Youth (UJC) and the Mass Organizations, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, the Ministry of Interior (MININT) and the Mass Media.” This means that any criticism of the mentioned institutions can be considered a violation of the service’s user conditions, and the blog can be eliminated.
This was the case with the Arcoiris (Rainbow) Project page. Arcoiris, which was begun in 2011 to share information on sexual diversity and other related topics, published a text in February 2016 that called attention to human rights violations committed by the Military Support Units for Production (UMAP).
“Fifty years have passed since the creation of the UMAP, and not a single responsible person has apologized to the people,” read the text that caused the closure of the blog. Previously, other blogs such as Bubusopia, Observatorio Critico and La Jugada had been closed.
In April 2019, the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) announced a new hosting service for citizens’ websites. Their options, all require payment, including an initial installation charge and monthly fees.
Depending on the type of site, prices could range between 3 CUC and 55 CUC per month. A site of 3 CUC per month would receive only 60 MB of website information storage and 40 MB for database. In contrast, an international service such as Digital Ocean, for example, charges $5 per month for 25 GB.
In the technical requirements of the web sites for hosting, ETECSA highlights that “except for messaging, it has disabled the realization of data exchange gateways and similar portals that facilitate the exit to other services located outside the server, which would allow the interaction of this with other systems and applications external to the service.”
This means that if you can’t even insert a YouTube video or a tweet inside your website. In addition, ETECSA notes that “you cannot host publications that constitute media,” which further restricts the non-state media present in the country.
Article 71 of the Decree-Law adds that in addition to the fine, those responsible for infringements can have their “means and equipment” confiscated, and in accordance with Article 74, would pass on “to the domain of the Ministry of Communications.”
According to this law, hundreds of Cuban bloggers who today host their sites on servers such as WordPress could be fined, or even lose their computers and phones.
The inspectors appointed by the Ministry of Communications and by the local administrations of the People’s Power “would also propose and assist in the application of the seizures, once approved by the authority designated by the Ministry of Communications.” The new cyber police would be empowered, in addition, “to carry out the retention of the objects subject to confiscation.”