Cuba’s Social Media Blackout Reflects an Alarming New Normal

With protests erupting around Cuba on Sunday over the country’s economic crisis, food shortages, and Covid-19 infection spike, the island nation’s ruling party responded by blocking access to Facebook, WhatsApp, and other popular communication and social media platforms. It’s a measure that authoritarian governments have deployed repeatedly in recent years, a go-to tool for repressive regimes looking to stifle unrest made possible by the increasing balkanization of the internet.

The Cuban government has done something like this before, disrupting access primarily to WhatsApp and Twitter during a surge of more localized protests in Havana last November. But it appears to have gone further this time. Reports indicate that Cuba suffered some short, widespread, general internet outages on Sunday; after connectivity returned, not only Facebook and WhatsApp but Instagram, Signal, and Telegram were difficult or impossible to access from the island. Most VPNs appeared blocked as well. The London-based internet monitoring firm Netblocks said on Tuesday that the platform blocking was ongoing.

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