Microsoft Offers a Gift to the Cuban Censors

This is not the first time I've heard that MSN Messenger is blocked for Cuban users. Almost three years ago a friend furtively sneaked me into a state office where she worked so I could connect to the Internet. I wanted to write an article and I was missing some data, so I asked for a few minutes in front of an obsolete computer at her company. Those were the days when I pretended to be a tourist to connect to the network at hotels, and that week I didn't have the convertible pesos to pay for an hour of access.

My friend read me the list of what was prohibited on that institutional connection and added that MSN wasn't working because it had been blocked for months. "You can't use any email or chat services that aren't local," and "don't even think about going to El Nuevo Herald," she said, eyes open wide. When I asked about the limitations on chatting with Microsoft software she explained that I should not use any interface that the network administrators couldn't control. Hotmail was banned because it was almost impenetrable to the recording software that kept a record of all the employees' correspondence. A little bit later Yahoo and GMail would also be banned at work and educational connections for the same reason.

Now the prohibition comes from the other side, precisely on the part of those who built a program that helps us escape government control. "Windows Live Messenger IM has been disabled for users in countries embargoed by the United States," reads the note that Microsoft published announcing the cut off. I feel with that once again we citizens lose out, because our government has its own channels for communicating with the rest of the world. This, clearly, is a blow to internet users, we outlaws of the web, which includes nearly everyone who accesses the Internet from Cuba. Surely at the company where my friend works the censor who monitors the connections must be delighted: Microsoft has just done his work for him.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.