What does it take for someone in Cuba to tweet? Cuban blogger Reyner Aguero offers some insights on how social media is navigated on the island.
It’s no surprise that Cuba is big on censorship. Freedom House
categorizes the island nation’s status as, “not free.” Cuba blocks social media apps and as of 2012, has only a 15% Internet penetration rate.
Though Twitter is a free service in and of itself, it is costing the people of Cuba plenty. In a post written in his blog, Juventud Resiliente
, or Resilient Youth, Cuban blogger Reyner Aguero explains how to circumvent state censorship to be able to post to Twitter. The following is a translation of his original post.
In the Information Age everyone wants to be connected, but not everyone is granted that wish. In some places of the world, people have grown up with a ubiquitous Internet. In Cuba, people have come up with creative ways to counteract the censorship that impedes them from being connected and sharing information with people from around the world.
A popular method in Cuba is tweeting via SMS to a number outside the country. This is an excellent way to publish information from any place, at any time, although it is somewhat expensive. Every text message sent costs 1 CUC, something impractical for a country in which the median salary is 17 CUC per month.
When you read the title, Twitter is 100 times cheaper from Cuban cell phones, you probably thought that this post was about a new offer from Cubacel that allows for less expensive Internet. But that is not entirely true.
The new offer that Cubacel is promoting is linked to a discount on multimedia message rates (MMS), by which for every 0.01 CUC, you can send MMS and emails to Cuban phones. The emails can be as long as 10Kb, which are approximately 10,000 words in plain text.
So, why would I name a post like this? Well, because I have found a proven alternative to use this tool to share information via MMS in social media.
Here’s what we need:
1- Gmail account. If you don’t have access to Gmail (because the site is blocked at the place where you are connected the Internet), you can create an account in Google. It will be the same account for all of your other services such as Gmail and YouTube, among others.
2- A Twitter account or an account in any other social media site or web service of your preference. This can be Facebook, LinkedIn and WordPress.
3- An account with IFTTT and active channels (web services). If you don’t have one, you can create one here. Once you confirm your account with IFTT, you can start activating your Gmail, Twitter and Bitly channels. (Bitly is optional.) Click on Channels. Then you can activate every channel that you wish to be authorized. This authorized IFTTT to access the accounts.
4- A phone that supports GPRS/EDGE/3G, so you can send the MMS. In the blog Generation Y, Yoani Sánchez explains in detail the steps that you need to follow to activate the MMS service in Cuba. If the blog is blocked, try to use Hideme.be, a web proxy that allows you to enter censored websites.
This is the logic: when you send an MMS from your cellphone to your Gmail inbox, this is detected by IFTT, which will select the content of the email “Subject” and publishes it to your Twitter or Facebook account.
How do we get IFTT to do this task? Well, with a little bit of your imagination… because this is the purpose of this magnificent service. We program tasks between the most popular Internet websites. To the new people using IFTT I say, do not worry. I have tested and shared this task in the following link:
There you can put your phone number followed by “@mms.cubacel.cu.” Then, click on "Use Recipe," and that’s it! You will have your own robot ready and available to carry your multimedia messages to Twitter.
Originally published in the blog, Juventud Resiliente