Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tweeting from Cuba frightens regime

Posted on Saturday, 04.24.10
Tweeting from Cuba frightens regime

Excerpt from Yoani Sanchez's Generation Y blog from Havana:

Last night I was visited by a friend who lives in Las Villas, who, to
reach the capital, must overcome the transportation problems as well as
the circle of vigilance that surrounds him.

He told me that a few weeks ago he was detained, and they confiscated
his mobile phone for a couple of hours, until an officer appeared,
annoyed, with the small Nokia in his hands.

``Now you're in trouble,'' said the State Security officer holding him
at the station, over and over.

The reason for such alarm was that his phone's address book included an
entry for Twitter, accompanied by a number in the United Kingdom.

``No one can save you from 15 years,'' threatened the officer, while
asserting that sending a Short Message Service item to someone with such
a strange name who lived so far away was a crime of enormous proportions.

He didn't know that our tweets travel to cyberspace through the rough
sending of text-only messages by way of cellphones.

Nor could he imagine that instead of ending up in the hands of a member
of the British intelligence services, our brief texts go to this blue
bird that makes them fly through cyberspace.

It is true that we broadcast blindly and that we cannot read our
readers' replies or references, but at least we are reporting on the
island in 140 character fragments.

Always thinking in terms of conspiracies, agents and plots, they haven't
noticed that the technologies have turned every citizen into his or her
own mass media.

It is no longer foreign correspondents who validate a given story in the
eyes of the world, but rather, increasingly, it is our own forays on
Twitter that are turned into informative references.

My friend recounted it in his own way, ``Yoani, when we were coming to
Havana we had a big operation behind us. I drafted a text message in
advance to alert people if they stopped us.''

Maybe it was the brightness of the Nokia display or the conviction that
something new would intervene between pursued and pursuer that stopped
them from putting him in a patrol car.

If they had intercepted him, a brief click of a key would have sent his
shout across the Web, telling what the international press would have
taken hours to find out.

As I saw him off at the door he had his cellphone in his hand, like a
dimly lit lantern.

In the folder marked ``drafts'' an already prepared text would protect
him from the shadows that awaited him below.

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