Cuban authorities are targetting Twitter, days after the latest viral message on that social network announced the alleged death of the island’s historic leader Fidel Castro.
Pro-government Cuban media are saying that Twitter is working on behalf of the United States to destabilize Cuban authority. The network, reports on the communist island say, is being “forced” to comply with court orders that support US policies against Havana.
The latest rumour on the elderly Castro’s death emerged on January 2 and quickly became a Twitter trending topic under the hashtag #FidelCastro, as had happened in late August with a similar message.
The event was later blamed on a computer virus, but Cuban government supporters mockingly accused Twitter of joining historic failed attempts to kill Castro. The man who actively led Cuba 1959-2006 has over the decades been the object of more than 600 attempts on his life, or plans to that effect.
Others pointed an accusing finger at the Twitter users who first posted the rumour, with accounts created in the Italian version of the network. The pro-government website Cubadebate, in turn, directly blamed Cuban exiles in Miami, whom it accuses of being funded from Washington.
“This is not the first time that Twitter skates ahead of US government policies towards Cuba,” Cubadebate said Saturday.
The editorial noted that Cuba “has become a thorny issue for the social network.”
Cubadebate referred to cases like the temporary suspension of tweeting from Cuban cellphones in October 2010, which affected mostly dissidents like award-winning blogger Yoani Sanchez.
The suspension was initially blamed on censorship by Cuban authorities, although Twitter eventually admitted, when it restored service, that it had disabled tweets from Cuban cellphones.
Cubadebate argued that the network “perhaps” feared being fined for violating the decades-old US embargo on Cuba, so it suspended its services on the island, but then got from Washington instructions to restore service.
A Twitter spokesperson told US media in the wake of the latest rumour on Fidel Castro that the network does not interfere with contents.
The leading role that social networks are playing in movements of opposition to authoritarian regimes around the world has been the subject of constant debate since the 2009 Green Revolution in Iran, and it has hardly gone unnoticed in Havana.
Cuban authorities have in recent months called upon their supporters to “occupy the web” with their own views, a cyberstrategy to stand up for the government currently led by Cuban President Raul Castro.
Cuban dissidents, in turn, have repeatedly accused the government of restricting access to the internet on the island for fear of the consequences of freedom of expression.