Thousands of people took to Cuban streets across the country on 11 July 2021, to protest against the government. In response, the government blocked access to messaging apps, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram to disrupt the flow of information, making it hard for citizens and activists to mobilize and communicate with each other.
Mobile phones account for over three-quarters of all web traffic in Cuba, with approximately 76 % of traffic within the country generated via mobile devices (Statista). Although access was restored quickly, Internet shutdowns during protests or civil unrest impact the ability of citizens to get accurate information from government sources when they need it most. It also becomes harder for citizens to contact family members and friends in other parts of the country, or in other countries. While the Internet has been available in Cuba for several years, access is controlled by the government, which blocks access to certain websites and requires permits for connections to private homes or businesses. The high cost of fixed line access was prohibitive for most citizens until 2018, when relatively affordable mobile Internet plans became available, opening up access – albeit censored – to millions of people.
Measurements collected through the Open Observatory for Network Interference (OONI) showed anomalies on WhatsApp after 10 July and Telegram after 11 July, while Facebook Messenger appears to be accessible.
Cloudflare Radar showed little decrease in traffic on Sunday, but a spike in use Monday and irregularities afterwards.
Google Transparency Report showed decrease in use since the interruption began at 8pm UTC Sunday 11 July.
— Vinicius Fortuna (he/him) (@vinifortuna) July 12, 2021
🔴Today OONI data shows that #Cuba started blocking WhatsApp, Telegram & Signal amid protests.
Blocking appears to be happening by injecting a TCP RST packet during the TLS handshake.https://t.co/mUnZDnk5ZNhttps://t.co/x7WEdZh65xhttps://t.co/LYs2cUyH2Q#CubaSOS #CubaLibre pic.twitter.com/4OFDFrveuO
— OONI (@OpenObservatory) July 12, 2021
#Internet disruption in #Cuba 🇨🇺 yesterday followed widespread anti-government protests. Impact most evident in @fastly traffic from @ETECSA_Cuba between 2000 – 2300 UTC.https://t.co/5vGmoP4fl8#KeepItOn pic.twitter.com/giHqNmfN0K
— David Belson (@dbelson) July 12, 2021