The Economist

The Cuban Lesson: If You Want Free Access to Media, Use Hackers

Bad internet connections, pricey internet packages, censorship, suppressed freedom of expression and content blocking: this is Cuba. How come, then, Cubans are such a well-informed crowd? Hackers and offline social networking are the answer.
In the past, it was illegal to own a computer in Cuba; and it was hard to buy one. Because of the U.S. embargo on Cuba, imports of technology were blocked. But in a landmark decision in 2008 when Raul Castro took over the government from his brother Fidel, he allowed Cubans to have computers and cellphones.
Eight years later, Cuba boasts a vibrant media content-sharing culture. But these exchanges take place mostly offline. Content from international media, which are fully blocked by Cuba’s government, is feverishly shared through pen drives passed from one to another across the country. The government has turned a blind eye to this growing system of information distribution.
But how do these half-secret, real-life social networks of content distribution really work? The offline world is the answer.