It’s often frightening to see how terrorists use technology against freedom. It’s therefore uplifting and refreshing to see people using technology to advance freedom. The New York Times, which has always been dizzyingly respectful of Castro, has pulled a fast U-turn and written a very good article about young people using technology to circumvent Cuba’s dictatorship:
A growing underground network of young people armed with computer memory sticks, digital cameras and clandestine Internet hookups has been mounting some challenges to the Cuban government in recent months, spreading news that the official state media try to suppress.
“It passes from flash drive to flash drive,” said Ariel, 33, a computer programmer, who, like almost everyone else interviewed for this article, asked that his last name not be used for fear of political persecution. “This is going to get out of the government’s hands because the technology is moving so rapidly.”
Cuban officials have long limited the public’s access to the Internet and digital videos, tearing down unauthorized satellite dishes and keeping down the number of Internet cafes open to Cubans. Only one Internet cafe remains open in Old Havana, down from three a few years ago.
Yet the government’s attempts to control access are increasingly ineffective. Young people here say there is a thriving black market giving thousands of people an underground connection to the world outside the Communist country.
People who have smuggled in satellite dishes provide illegal connections to the Internet for a fee or download movies to sell on discs. Others exploit the connections to the Web of foreign businesses and state-run enterprises. Employees with the ability to connect to the Internet often sell their passwords and identification numbers for use in the middle of the night.
Some young journalists have also started blogs and Internet news sites, using servers in other countries, and their reports are reaching people through the digital underground.
Yoani Sánchez, 32, and her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, 60, established Consenso desde Cuba , a Web site based in Germany. Ms. Sánchez has attracted a considerable following with her blog, Generación Y, in which she has artfully written gentle critiques of the government by describing her daily life in Cuba. Ms. Sánchez and her husband said they believed strongly in using their names with articles despite the possible political repercussions.
Because Ms. Sánchez, like most Cubans, can get online for only a few minutes at a time, she writes almost all her essays beforehand, then goes to the one Internet cafe, signs on, updates her Web site, copies some key pages that interest her and walks out with everything on a memory stick. Friends copy the information, and it passes from hand to hand. “It’s a solid underground,” she said. “The government cannot control the information.”
It is spread by readers like Ricardo, 28, a philosophy student at the University of Havana who sells memory sticks to other students. European friends buy blank flash drives, and others carry them into Cuba, where the drives available through normal channels are very expensive and scarce.
Like many young Cubans, Ricardo plays a game of cat and mouse with the authorities. He doubts that the government will ever let ordinary citizens have access to the Internet in their homes. “That’s far too dangerous,” he said. “Daddy State doesn’t want you to get informed, so it preventively keeps you from surfing.”
I consider this article a very nice companion piece to the other recent surprising Times article exposing the fact that, when trapped between a fascist local religion and Western Democracy, more and more young Iraqis are doing the politically incorrect thing and opting for the latter.