Havana, Cuba: The United States blockade caused Cuba’s late entry to the Internet and is the origin of the phenomena that our society is experiencing to join the digital environment, journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde explained, Prensa Latina publishes.
Early on, Washington designed a policy of excluding the Island from social networks. With the Torricelli Act, enacted by George Bush in 1992, the United States prohibited it from benefiting from the full potential of cyberspace, she said.
“At present, our country can only receive information through the Internet, but US legislation restricts Cuba’s participation in the digital economy, nor can it receive other benefits that impact the development of Cubans”, the specialist commented.
In dialogue with Prensa Latina, the PhD in Communication Sciences and Cuban expert on these issues recalled how citizens are prevented from accessing hundreds of sites and services, most of them free for the rest of Internet users, which limits the investigation and development of any kind.
“Accessing computer resources is excessively expensive for Cuba, which is forced to acquire them in distant markets. This union of factors hinders Cuba’s natural presence on the Internet”, she clarified.
Added to this reality are the toxic campaigns suffered by the island from US territory, with the support of the transnational right wing that is mobilizing at the speed of a click.
Through the networks, Cubans suffer an unprecedented communication war, in which all kinds of disinformation tactics are carried out with new methodologies and tools.
Prensa Latina (PL): Why are social networks the ideal setting to promote these manipulative maneuvers?
Rosa Miriam Elizalde (RME): The campaigns against Cuba are not recent, they date back to 1959 and they always sought the same thing, to overthrow the government.
What is new today is that the United States uses digital platforms with the entire arsenal of information warfare operations.
We have seen here many of the novelties of unconventional and cybernetic confrontation applied by the Pentagon and the US intelligence agencies against other countries.
The objective of the so-called unconventional warfare is to avoid the dispatch of soldiers on the ground. The media and social networks allow the generation of spaces for consensus without the costs that a military intervention would entail. They facilitate the modeling of political scenarios based on the construction of consensus and social control.
In a super-technologized world, communication has become the central element in disciplining countries.
The more fragmented society is, the more power these weapons of war have to package a single colonizing agenda for the hundreds of thousands of bubbles in which audiences are segmented.
PL: How does the context of the Covid-19 pandemic influence?
RME: Social isolation increased technological dependence. People spend more hours in front of the screen, almost half of their waking hours. It is a context that affects all areas of our life, where devices and platforms access our daily lives like never before.
At the same time, the media dispute the representation of what they can see and what millions of people can imagine, while fake news and the spreading of junk content increase.
PL: What role do large technology companies play in the media war against Cuba?
RME: The social platforms -Google, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, mainly- are complicit in these disinformation processes against Cuba and other progressive governments in the region.
They looked the other way at the flows of violence that stimulated social neurosis during the so-called guarimbas in Venezuela in 2017 or the coup against Bolivian President Evo Morales in 2019. But the most recent events in Cuba are amplified. Everything is documented.
PL: How did #SOSCUBA come about?
RME: That toxic campaign did not start on July 11, but much earlier. Florida laboratories set up the network operation, it is proven. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez denounced Proactivo Miami and demanded that Washington deny that accusation, which they did not do.
What would happen if for a moment it were the other way around, if the United States accused a Havana company of organizing a network operation against the civilian population?
Twitter also did nothing to prevent that operation that involved automated systems (robots), cyber-robbers and waves of fake news, in the days before and after the July 11 riots in Cuba.
Since then, our country has been the victim of all known cyberwar techniques and information operations that the United States Army uses against its enemies.
PL: How does Cuba defend itself in these scenarios?
RME: Cuba defends itself with the truth. That is a great lesson that Fidel Castro left us. We have spent more than 60 years of blockade and harassment, of strategies to annihilate Cubans out of hunger and despair, with unresolved problems of all kinds.
But this is a project in which the ideals of freedom and justice go hand in hand. The island defends itself when it achieves that reality, complex and heroic, sometimes contradictory, is represented as it is in daily life, which is already the mixture of physical and digital space.
PL: What are the country’s challenges in the digital sphere?
RME: Understand that the Internet is here to stay, that it is a space for the construction of hegemony and political dispute. Therefore, we must learn to live in this new social ecology, strengthen humanistic and solidarity values and create our own tools.
Understand that digital platforms and new spaces for socialization are not neutral and that critical thinking must be stimulated in the face of this reality. There is no other.