Venezuela web crackdown targets Bitly

2013-12-06 14:00
(Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

(Duncan Alfreds, News24, file)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Caracas - Venezuelans have been scrambling for dollars for weeks, taking refuge in the greenback as their own currency is in free fall.

Rather than address the economic imbalances behind the bolivar's plunge, the government is going after the bearers of the bad news - it's blocking websites people use to track exchange rates on the black market.

Cyber activists say the crackdown goes to absurd lengths, even targeting Bitly, the popular site for shortening web addresses to make it easier to send them as links via Twitter and other social media.

For more than two weeks, access to the service has been partially censored by several internet service providers in Venezuela, apparently because Bitly was being used to evade blocks put on currency-tracking websites.

The New York company says such restrictions have only previously been seen in China, which has one of the worst records for internet freedom, and even then not for such an extended period. Opponents of Venezuela's socialist government say the controls are designed to obscure reporting of the nation's mounting economic woes.

Municipal elections

"We help connect people with information and insight about their world," Bitly CEO Mark Josephson said. "When someone is standing in the way of that mission, that's not something we feel good about."

Bitly got caught in the crossfire of Venezuela's polarized politics a month ago, shortly after President Nicolas Maduro decided to block access to sites such as www.dolartoday.com that publish the black market rate for the bolivar, which is now 10 times the official rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar.

Maduro accuses the sites of fuelling an "economic war" against his government, which is facing municipal elections this weekend that will be its first political test since he narrowly won the presidency in April following Hugo Chavez's death. Many are also openly critical of the government.

But with the blocks in place, many sites managed to skirt the controls by migrating to Twitter, keeping hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans informed of the black market rate by using Bitly to direct traffic to newly created websites.

In response, telecommunications regulator Conatel sent a letter to Twitter on 19 November asking it to immediately shut all accounts used to violate Venezuela's currency controls, warning that its failure to do so would be "highly damaging to the Venezuelan economy".

Twitter has ignored the request but declines to comment on the matter.

Around the same time, Bitly vanished without notice - at least for the vast majority of Venezuelans who are subscribers to the state-run service provider, CANTV. As a result, the average number of clicks on Bitly-generated links has fallen by half to about 1.5 million a day in Venezuela, Josephson said.

"It's like shutting down all the highways in the country because there was an accident on one street," said Luis Carlos Diaz, a cyber activist and tech columnist for the Caracas newspaper Tal Cual.

- AP

Read more on:    internet  |  online privacy
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
2 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
 

'Zuma's legacy will be judged by Nkandla'

The legacy of President Jacob Zuma is contingent on how he deals with the issue of upgrades to his Nkandla homestead, says Cape Town Archbishop Thabo Makgoba.

 
 

Latest elections multimedia

Why Jack Parow wants you to vote on 7 May
The ad the SABC doesn't want to air
Elections 2014 in one cartoon
This year's election posters
 
Traffic
Lottery
 
  • Thursday Sir Lowry's Pass - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Old Sir Lowrys Pass Road
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Bezweni Road
  • Thursday Cape Town - 05:35 AM
    Road name: Buitengracht Street
    TRAFFIC LIGHTS not working at Waterkant Street
 
More traffic reports...
 

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as kalahari.com’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Bold Touch 9900

The Blackberry Bold Touch 9900 is as the name says...

From R3565.00

I'm shopping for:

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be good at organising events but they do take their toll on your energy levels. You may need some time out today just to...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.