Tag Archives: censorship

The silence of the geeks

bit.ly not found

A common sight these days

Bit.ly, a link-shortening service frequently used on Twitter, has been blocked by Venezuelan internet service providers for more than two weeks. Today, Associated Press crack reporter Josh Goodman picks up the story to explain:

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 restrictions are designed to obscure reporting of the nation’s mounting economic woes.

You read that right, the providers must block all links to Bit.ly, one of the most heavily used tools on Twitter and one of the 4,000 websites most used on the entire Internet, according to Alexa.com.

The measure has drawn almost no public protest or concern, either within Venezuela or outside. The only complaints I’ve seen have been from dolartoday.com, which is the ostensible target of the censorship (and which immediately switched to goo.gl short links) and from the little-known geek website alt1040.com.

Most people I talk to say the Bitly situation is just incompetence or bad programming, most likely at state ISP Cantv. I hope so, but I worry that it’s not. Cantv is full of intel types. Cantv blocked all international web access during a brief political panic, after the 2008 referendum, while other ISPs still had access to the outside sites. Cantv may be practicing to set up some sort of great firewall and testing the waters, to see if they can gradually increase the temperature without scaring the frog.

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