Photo: Planeta Red retrieved

Access to online encyclopedia Wikipedia in Venezuela has been limited in the last few days after allegedly the state’s telecom Cantv blocked the site on January 11, as a response to an “edit war” over if National Assembly Speaker Juan Guaidó actually declared himself President of Venezuela or not. The page was still available in other local internet service providers.

After his speech on January 11 during a public gathering (cabildo abierto) in Caracas, Guaidó’s Wikipedia article was modified, naming him president. That started a back and forth of 37 changes to the article in over two hours, according to Efecto Cocuyo. The Venezuelan chapter of Wikimedia soon took notice and put the page in semi-protected status.

Journalist and CC collaborator Arnaldo Espinoza explained what went down to Hipertextual:

“Now, Guaidó’s words on January 11 were interpreted by some media outlets as (Guaidó) declaring himself interim president. Then, the demons broke loose. Editions were precisions over if that was really said it or not. Wikipedists who sympathized with Guaidó and others associated with the government started to make and unmake changes. A total of 37 in two hours. At the same time, the internal discussion page was being assembled and we started to see each person’s postures.”

But the hegemony didn’t wait long and, as expected, their reaction was totally disproportionate: users in social networks like Twitter and Reddit complained that access to Wikipedia was fully blocked in the ABA internet service of state telecom company Cantv. Caracas Chronicles confirmed this independently on the afternoon of January 11.

The Internet Observatory of the NGO Netblocks Group verified that Cantv has indeed blocked access to all versions of Wikipedia, reaching a new threshold on the ongoing digital crackdown.

The findings are corroborated by several Cantv subscribers who report they can only access Wikipedia using VPN connections that can circumvent censorship.”

The Wikimedia Foundation (the non-profit entity that runs Wikipedia) also confirmed there were difficulties to enter Wikipedia in Venezuela and that it was “monitoring the situation”.

Netblocks also indicated that other local sites are under pressure, as Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre (the alliance between the MUD and civil society groups created last year) reported that their webpage was recently blocked as well. So far, neither Cantv nor other government agency has provided any information about this situation.

Now, Venezuela has joined the infamous list of nations that have censored the site. Sadly, as sources of accurate information have dwindled recently in our country, this latest overreaction by the communicational hegemony proves their disregard for free flow of information and ideas.

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