politics

Now That Cuba Has Allowed Social Media Access, Government Officials Are Blocking Those Who Criticize Them

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While internet access is still relatively new in Cuba, there has already been some controversy when it comes to citizens criticizing public officials online. According to the Miami Herald, Twitter users have seen some of their profiles and comments regarding government officials blocked or removed altogether. Twitter users took to social media to voice their concern about having their voices and comments silenced by public officials.

Limited internet access in Cuba began in 2008 but it wasn’t until last December when mobile phones became readily available.

Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel promoted the idea of having a platform where Cuban officials and regular citizens could interact. With such a relatively new technology at the hands of public officials, they have swayed away from criticism. With internet access and Wi-Fi hotspots just becoming accessible to all on the island, many are getting their feet wet when it comes to social media. That includes government and public officials.

Jovann Silva Delgado, a Cuban lawyer who lives in the U.S, was recently blocked online by José Ramón Cabañas, the ambassador of Cuba in Washington. Silva says he was blocked by Cabañas because he criticized a protest last year initiated by the Cuban delegation at the United Nations.

“Beyond the political position of a public official, who holds a post presumably supported by voters, the social media networks of officials are to give an account of their management, which is paid with everyone’s money,” Silva told the Miami Herald.

This issue has been happening to multiple people trying to interact with public officials in Cuba.

Another user, Norges Rodríguez, founder of YucaByte, an online project on communication technology, said he was blocked. Rodríguez found out he was blocked by Jorge Luis Perdomo, minister of communications in Cuba, after trying to mention him in a tweet.

“Well, today I tried to mention the minister [of communications] in a tweet and I found out that I am blocked. I think I was respectful the last time I mentioned him,“ Rodríguez said in a tweet.

The Inventory project, a repository of open data for Cuba, is trying to list the names of Cuban officials who block citizens on social media.

The Inventory Project, invited users who have been blocked by public officials to give info on who blocked them to create a larger database. The Twitter profile asked users to provide a tweet with the the name of the user, the person who blocked, the date and a screenshot of the message that was blocked.

There has already been a long list of officials who have been reported for blocking citizens. Among them are National Assembly member Mariela Castro, daughter of former president Raúl Castro and Juan Antonio Fernández, ambassador of Cuba in Austria.

Just last May, a U.S. judge banned public officials from blocking those who criticize them online.

In the U.S., it’s a complete different story when it comes to citizens criticizing public officials. Last May, U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said that officials like President Donald Trump violated the First Amendment when he blocked Twitter users who criticized him. The ruling was a victory for free speech and a harsh rebuke to Trump’s effort to prevent his critics from engaging with him on social media.

While there has been no law or ruling similar in Cuba, you can only expect some kind of action to be taken eventually. Social media interactions between citizens and public officials is still relatively new in Cuba but that gives no excuse to silence voices. Especially those trying to create public dialogue with leaders and government officials.

READ: Here’s A Brief Look At The History Of The Cuban People And The Island They Call Home

After Saying She Won't Vaccinate Her Kid, Kat Von D Wants You To Know She's Not An Anti-Vaxxer

Politics

After Saying She Won’t Vaccinate Her Kid, Kat Von D Wants You To Know She’s Not An Anti-Vaxxer

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Beauty entrepreneur and tattoo artist, Kat Von D is pretty clear about where she stands on certain topics. She’s been vocal about being anti-Donald Trump, she’s an avid supporter of animal rights, and is vegan. When she announced that she was pregnant with her first baby, Von D also made some statements that quickly put her into the anti-vaccine category. There’s also a dark past that Von D has been forced to discuss openly.

It’s not certain what made Von D address her fans and haters about issues that have been plaguing her career, though some attribute it to low business sales after she made the anti-vaccine statements on Instagram (which have now been deleted).

Kat Von D posted an 11-minute video on YouTube to dispel the notion that she’s anti-semitic and an anti-vaxxer.

In the video, Von D addresses why she got labeled a Nazi sympathizer, which is something that has followed her for years. She said it first began when she appeared on Miami Ink. She said that someone on that show didn’t like that she was getting more attention and that the show was getting better ratings after she began appearing on the show.

“That’s when the hazing started,” she said. “The mistreatment on set was pretty unbearable over the time that I was there filming. There were so many times that he said things to me that were so repulsive, I could never repeat those things out loud.”

She went on to say that she decided to leave the show because of the hostility, but producers wanted to give her her own show instead. When her assailant (whom she never names) found out that “L.A. Ink” would be centered around her, that’s when he threatened to expose that Von D was anti-semitic.

Von D said that her assailant had a headshot image of her with forged wording that was offensive, and claims she did not write those words.

Twitter/@spektader

“I have no idea who actually forged the message, but what I do know is that the man who treated me so terribly on set took this 8×10 and threatened the network, saying that if they don’t cancel ‘L.A. Ink’ that he would go to all these different media outlets and release the 8×10 with the forged message on it.”

“After all these years, this is the first time that I’m actually talking about this publicly,” she said. “Honestly, I’ve been dreading making this video, but I know that it has to be done. I have to do it. I can’t just keep letting other people write this narrative that’s so inaccurate and so false and so awful. None of this feels good to relive.”

Then Von D discussed her anti-vaccine comments that she posted on Instagram before the birth of her baby boy.

@thekatvond / Instagram

“I am not an anti-vaxxer. What I am is a first-time mother. I’m one of those moms that reads everything. I read everything from ingredients in foods to cleaning supplies to medicines — basically, anything that is going in my baby or on my baby. I research like a complete and total nerd.”

“After doing a bunch of research and reading the ingredients, naturally, I experienced some hesitancy,” she continued. “If I would’ve known that I would’ve let so many people down with that, I would’ve never ever shared where we were at with it at that time.”

She said that she has since been open with her baby’s doctor and they have adviced her on what is best for the baby. She added that she would not be making his medical records public nor discussing what medical path they are taking.

After the release of the video, some didn’t feel her apology or words touched on other reasons why they think she’s anti-semitic, including the name of one of her lipsticks.

Twitter/@spektader

One of her lipsticks is called “Selektion” which is a word associated with the “Third Reich” according to ABC News. Rather than addressing the more public reasons behind the anti-Semitic label that has been placed on her, she went with a story no one had really heard from her.

For historical context, “selektion” refers to the practice of German Nazi officers selecting which prisoners lived or died when they arrived at the camps. We are experiencing a moment in our country when anti-Semitic attacks and rhetoric has found its way back into our politics. As such, these names are highly problematic and Kat Von D’s use of the word is troubling, regardless of the intention.

Others referenced that Von D once dated tattoo artist Jesse James who’s been accused of being a Nazi.

Twitter/@spektader

People brought up the fact that her current baby daddy, Prayers, has a swastika tattoo on his neck, but he said last year that the symbol is a tribute to his “Paramahansa Yogananda” beliefs.

He wrote last year on Instagram: “IM NOT A NAZI” I’m Jewish from my father’s side, indigenous from my mother’s side and born in Mexico! When I was in my early 20s I practiced eastern philosophy. I also held free classes on yoga, metaphysics and spirituality, In my vegetarian restaurant for about 4 years. In the early ’90s before it became popular. The words of Paramahansa Yogananda saved my life! That’s what inspired my throat tattoo. My tattoo Is not in the shape of an X and it’s not a German swastika!”

Some people on social media still believe she is disingenuous despite the video.

People said that Von D bringing up she’s Latina doesn’t negate the fact that they can be racist just because they’re a person of color. Latinos have a long history of looking down on and being prejudice against dark-skinned Latinos and African-Americans.

Anti-black sentiment is something the Latino community continues to struggle with and, honestly, many refuse to do anything about the anti-black culture within the Latino community.

Some people think that her video came along too late.

It was bizarre for her to make a video about this kind of out of the blue. The scandal about her anti-vaxxer Instagram post and the claims of her anti-Semitism have been swirling in the universe for a long time.

There hasn’t been any renewed claim of these sentiments. However, the YouTube video is reigniting the debate about whether or not she is indeed an anti-vaxxer and anti-Semitic. It is almost as if the video is doing her more harm than good.

She has said thing in the past but has changed her mind later. She does attribute that to being young.

Who knows if she’ll be able to live this down. It certainly feels as if this video is adding fuel to the fire that is the harsh allegations. If there is anything you should know about the internet is that it never forgets. Also, the internet is a savage place where you can say whatever you want but people are going to take it how they see it and run with those allegations to all parts of the internet.

What will this mean for her brand?

Maybe she has some ride or die fans. It is all a matter of time to see how her brand weathers these new attacks. Regardless of her intention, it might have been smarter to wait until there was a reason to make this video. The news cycle has been elsewhere and this video is stirring so many thing up.

Here’s her entire video below.

Kat Von D Beauty is standing by the face of their brand. The company posted on Instagram about their unwavering support for Kay Von D and the belief in her innocence. What do you think?

READ: 21 Things You Didn’t Know About Kat Von D

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