Venezuela's Maduro has been blacking out social media — and sometimes the whole internet — to stifle his US-backed opposition

  • Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s regime has been systematically blacking out the country’s internet and social media.
  • Platforms including YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook were blocked during the exact time Maduro opponent Juan Guaidó made important speeches, the NGO NetBlocks said.
  • Blacking out the internet is especially bad for Guaidó’s popularity as Maduro’s government controls most of the country’s TV and radio outlets.
  • Law-enforcement authorities loyal to Maduro have also physically attacked and threatened reporters and the president’s opponents.

Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolás Maduro has been blacking out his country’s social media, and at times the entire internet.

The outages are brief, and appear timed deliberately to block people from listening to his opponents.

Periscope, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram went down between 9:02 p.m. and 9:14 p.m. on Monday, said NetBlocks, a non-governmental organisation that tracks internet blackouts.

The graph below shows the degree of service disruption on Monday night – Facebook, Periscope, YouTube, and Instagram all blacked out entirely for the 12-minute period.

The timezone used in the x-axis is UTC, which is four hours ahead of Venezuela Time.

The blockage came as Juan Guaidó, the leader of the opposition against Maduro and self-declared “interim president,” delivered a livestreamed speech in which he called for more protests against Maduro.


Read more:
Meet Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela who’s challenging Nicolas Maduro for power

YouTube and Periscope also went down from 5:15 p.m. local time on Tuesday to coincide with a livestreamed session at the country’s National Assembly legislature, which is led by Guaidó, NetBlocks found.

It’s not clear when this particular blackout ended, and whether other social media platforms were also affected.

The graph below shows the patchy service on Periscope and YouTube on Tuesday night. The timezone is also in UTC.

NetBlocks also found that the entire internet was blocked out in certain parts of the country between on Saturday and Sunday.

People also reported being unable to contact family and friends in Venezuela over the weekend.

The gif below shows total internet blackouts across Venezuela, which were mapped with users’ IP addresses.

Other platforms including Blogpost, Google, Snapchat were also blocked during widespread protests against Maduro last week, NetBlocks noted.

Blacking out the internet can severely hamper Guaidó’s ability to operate, as Maduro’s government controls most of the country’s news, TV, and radio outlets.

Venezuelan law-enforcement authorities have stormed media outlets’ offices and and confiscated reporters’ equipment during protests, Reporters Without Borders reported.

Radio presenter César Miguel Rondón said his show was taken of the air, adding: “it is not self-censorship, it is pure and hard censorship that has silenced us.”

Venezuela’s Special Action Force (FAES), which experts say reports directly to Maduro, have also been raiding and attacking neighbourhoods around the country to intimidate the president’s critics, Bloomberg reported.

Guaidó has over the past week won the support of tens of thousands of Venezuelans, who say Maduro’s presidency and unconstitutional and fraudulent.

The US, Canada, and most of Latin America openly back Guaidó, and several European countries have called on Maduro to call elections or, in their eyes, lose his legitimacy as president.

Maduro told Russia’s state-run RIA news agency on Wednesday he was “ready for talks with the opposition,” meaning Guaidó, and was open to having other countries mediate the meeting.

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday warned Americans to avoid travelling to Venezuela amid the political turmoil.

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