Monday 20 March 2023

Cuban government blames Twitter for historic protests

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Q24N – A campaign orchestrated on Twitter from the United States to destabilize the regime is the argument of the Cuban government to explain the historic demonstrations of July 11. But experts consulted by the AFP are not totally convinced.

A man shouts slogans during a protest to show his support for Cubans who demonstrate against their government, in Miami on July 14, 2021. (CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

“I have irrefutable proof that most of the users who participated in this campaign were in the US and that they used automated systems to viralize content, without being penalized by the social network Twitter,” said Cuba’s Minister of Exterior Relations, Bruno Rodríguez.

For the Minister, these protests, in which thousands of Cubans demonstrated shouting “freedom”, “we are hungry” and “down with the dictatorship”, were not a “social outbreak”, but the result of a “communication war and information against Cuba”.

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And the great culprit?

The hashtag #SOSCuba, launched at the beginning of July to warn about the serious health situation on the island, which faces an increase in coronavirus cases and to demand humanitarian aid from abroad.

For Julián Macías, a Spanish social media expert, invited to a program on Cuban state television on Tuesday, there are many strange numbers around this keyword.

“Between July 5, when the #SOSCuba hashtag began to be used, and on July 8, some 5,000 tweets were posted” with this mention, Macias explained to AFP.

And it did not stop growing: 100,000 on the 9th, 500,000 on the 10th, 1.5 million on the 11th and two million on the 12th, he explained, after a careful analysis.

Automated accounts

The accounts that use this label “are from many sites and for me there is an international network of accounts related to an ideological spectrum,” since “they are the same accounts that participated in the campaigns to attack Amlo (Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador), the government of Argentina and the Spanish government,” all from the left.

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According to Macias, these are fake accounts or automated accounts used to publish a large number of tweets.

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at the Kentik tech society, is more skeptical: “Does anyone send a tweet in the United States that throws people out onto the streets in Cuba? (…) It is hard to believe it”.

“I don’t know if one could sit down and try to create a Twitter campaign that has such an influence on the average Cuban that, out of nowhere, it convinces him to do things that he would not have done otherwise,” he adds.

Although Madory acknowledges the existence of automated tweets in the campaigns, the expert says that “this is likely to be done by the Cuban government as well,” some of whose followers are strikingly identical in their tweets.

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Madory recalls that in the face of this the Cuban authorities have a formidable weapon at their disposal: turn off the tap. In fact, from noon Sunday to Wednesday morning, mobile internet was inaccessible on the island.

Reinstated on Wednesday, but remains unstable and social media is impossible to access.

People protest to show their support for Cubans who demonstrate against their government in Miami on July 14, 2021. One person has died and more than 100 have been arrested, among independent journalists and opposition activists, since the protests broke out. against the government on the communist-ruled island. (CHANDAN KHANNA / AFP)

‘War against Cuba’

Although the government did not confirm that it had restricted the Internet and merely stressed its “right to defend itself,” a host on state television broke the news Tuesday night.

“I understand as a journalist, even if it hurts me, the measure of the cut of social networks because it is the area where the war against Cuba is being organized,” she added.

For the Cuban political scientist Harold Cárdenas, “it would be a simplification to say that it is a US campaign, because obviously there are many other reasons behind the protests.”

For example, “I know communists who were imprisoned the other day for being in the protests.”

This “does not mean that there is no responsibility on the part of the United States in the outbreak,” since its sanctions represent an “intentional strangulation of the Cuban population.”

[Cuba accuses the US of being behind the demonstrations on the island]

And it is true that social networks “have served to create parallel realities”, while numerous false information and manipulated images have been shared in recent days in Cuba. “There is also an intention from outside to generate uncertainty in the country.”

But “I think that (the authorities) attribute an exaggerated importance to what happened on Twitter”, since these demonstrations were mainly motivated by “fatigue, economic exhaustion”.

Macías agrees with him: “Beyond that it is an orchestrated campaign, there are mobilizations, there are people demonstrating, who are against, who have petitions and what the Cuban government has to do is respect the right to demonstrate.”

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Q24N is an aggregator of news for Latin America. Reports from Mexico to the tip of Chile and Caribbean are sourced for our readers to find all their Latin America news in one place.

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