Google Takes on Chavista Censorship

These days, if you're a news giant and you need to roll-out a brand new anti-censorship system, you know where you go first.

Photo: Spin retrieved.

Jigsaw, the tech incubator division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, just launched a new app.  Intra sidesteps denial-of-service (DDOS) and other similar blockings through encrypted connections.

What should Venezuelans care? Well, because the makers of Intra are testing it here.

AP’s correspondent Scott Smith has more details in his latest dispatch and why we were chosen to host Intra’s trial-by-fire: “News junkies in Venezuela clicking on links to independent websites have been frustrated in recent years by messages on their screens saying the pages don’t exist—a problem most blame on government moves to block access to critical information.”

The Press and Society Institute of Venezuela (IPYS), a press freedom group, says that news websites critical of the government have been increasingly targeted since 2014. A four-day test trying to access 53 websites hundreds of times each day in August found roughly half were blocked, according to researchers.

Jared Cohen, CEO of Jigsaw, recognized the role Venezuela had in the development of Intra: “We didn’t build Intra for Venezuela… But the insights came from our work with Venezuelan journalists.” The app could help local independent news outlets like El Pitazo or Armando. Info, targeted by the communicational hegemony for its reporting.

According to Jigsaw, the app has been downloaded 130,000 times already and Venezuela is one of the top three nations (the other two were not identified by Intra’s makers).

But even if new high-tech tools can help Venezuelans break the wall of censorship created by the State, other low-tech issues have undermined the work of the media. In recent days, it has been the ever-present matter of insecurity: Both a warehouse used by Maracay newspaper El Siglo and the Anzoategui branch of the National Journalists Guild (CNP) got robbed.

And one frequent target of robbers has been the international media which still has presence in the country: The offices of U.S. TV channel Univision were recently robbed in Caracas and according to the National Press Workers’ Union (SNTP), at least six foreign outlets have suffered the same fate during the year, including CNN in three occasions.

It’s an unwritten rule that journalists and outlets shouldn’t be the news. But the media’s and the press’ situations in Venezuela have now reached an all time low. Under chavismo, the media became the news, and new tools to overcome censorship help us survive one day at a time.