Venezuelan Military Poised to Censor Twitter in Targeted States


EspañolAgents of Venezuela’s Chavista government plan to restrict the use of social-media outlet Twitter within specific states of the South American nation. A government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, has shared that the strategy is in response to the micro-blogging website’s success and widespread use as a means of communication.

The informant explains that the actions are coming from the armed forces on La Orchila Island, which houses a military base. Agents there are not seeking to block the entire site from the nation; rather, they are using “estela” (wake) software that emits an alarm when someone on Twitter mentions specific accounts or searches for specific terms.

According to the individual’s declaration, government officials are also zeroing in on specific inland regions, areas they want to keep as strongholds of Chavismo. Thus, they want to block information harmful to the image of the regime and related to the deteriorating situation of the nation.

The targeted region is home to 4 million residents and includes the states of Falcón, Barinas, Apure, Portuguesa, and Monagas. Citizens there have few if any options to learn of what is happening in their country, since the state apparatus has complete control over normal means of communication. Hence they turn to Twitter both to inform themselves and express disapproval, even though these areas aren’t normally the country’s most dense with Twitter users.

“[Chavista officials] conducted a study, and what became clear was the high penetration of Twitter and the damage it was causing them. In those small states there is a great following of journalists such as Nelson Bocaranda and Sebastiana Barráez and their updates.”

The plan will be to incrementally disrupt the system of communication in these states in small steps, with the hope that the isolated incidents will not garner too much attention and create an uproar in the population.

The government has struggled to block Twitter outright, the informant explains, because of compatibility problems between the elaborate social-media technology and the software of Venezuela’s state telecommunications company, Cantv.

As an example of what may be to come, this Thursday the government momentarily blocked the DolarToday mobile-telephone application that allows people to know the black-market or parallel exchange rates of the Venezuelan bolívar — as reported by journalist Fran Monroy and confirmed via Twitter by DolarToday.

For Venezuelan authorities, DolarToday constitutes part of the “economic war” that supposedly the United States has against Venezuela.

In the same week the president of the National Telecommunications Commission of Venezuela, William Castillo, protested that his account within the network, @Planwac, had been blocked. Although the circumstances as to why they might have impeded his account remain unclear, he fired back with the threat that he would restrict the system in the country, if they did not return his followers.

Reporting by Thabata Molina. Translated by Fergus Hodgson.

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