Cubans say access to online market site is blocked
Sun Nov 1, 2009 10:06am EST
By Esteban Israel
HAVANA (Reuters) – A popular website of classified ads that has given
Cubans a taste of the free market has been blocked on the communist-run
island, Internet users said.
Cubans trying to access Revolico.com, which says it has more than 1.5
million page views a month, are being diverted to the search engine
"If I type the address and press 'enter,' I get redirected. If I Google
it and click, I get redirected. What is going on?," asked Sandra a
30-year-old government employee who, like several others interviewed,
did not give their full names.
Cuban computer experts say an Internet content filter is preventing
access to the Craigslist-like site, which has emerged as a booming
virtual free market in the socialist nation with a tightly controlled
economy where consumer goods tend to be scarce and expensive.
On Revolico.com, Cubans with access to the Internet can buy and sell
anything from computer memory sticks to a 1950 Plymouth.
"There you can find all the things the government sells you at brutal
prices and freely pick exactly what you want," said Alberto, who
recently used Revolico.com to buy a computer that was not available in
The Internet in Cuba is controlled by the state monopoly ETECSA, a joint
venture between the Cuban government and Telecom Italia.
Whether the state was blocking the site was unknown but Cuban
authorities have in the past reportedly prohibited access to pages they
consider "counter-revolutionary," including blogs critical of the
"Apparently someone doesn't like people buying and selling stuff. But
there is always a way," said Luis, a computer aficionado
who has been circulating an e-mail giving directions on how to bypass
It is not clear where Revolico.com is based but it is hosted out of
servers in the United States. An administrator contacted by Reuters
outside of Cuba said the site is aware of the filter problem and working
to resolve it.
The use of content filters is growing around the world, according to The
OpenNet Initiative (opennet.net), an academic program monitoring online
"We have just finished our testing in 71 countries and have found
evidence of content filtering in close to 40 countries," said Ronald
Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto and
co-founder of The OpenNet Initiative.
Countries like China or Iran use filters to prevent access to sites
viewed as politically challenging. Some Western democracies say they use
them to block websites with child pornography.
Official statistics show that 13 percent of Cuba's 11 million people
have access to the Internet and most of those only to e-mail and a local
intranet of approved sites. Cuba blames the long-standing U.S. trade
embargo against the island for its limited access.
The filters on Revolico.com come after Cuba recently blocked the use of
the free call service Skype.com in what industry sources said was a
purely commercial decision to keep Skype from cutting into revenues for
long-distance calls through the phone system.
Internet service providers in other countries such as China, the United
Arab Emirates and even the United States have taken similar steps in the
The U.S. trade embargo, imposed since 1962 to undermine the Cuban
government, also has caused U.S. companies such as Microsoft Corp and
Google Inc to not provide instant messaging services in Cuba because
they say U.S. regulations prohibit required downloads.
The Obama administration now is saying it wants the companies to resume
the service because they foster communications and democracy.
(Editing by Jeff Franks and Bill Trott)
Cubans say access to online market site is blocked | Technology |
Internet | Reuters (2 November 2009)