As Currency Falls, Venezuela Wages War on ... Bit.ly

Government turns to censorship to stop flight to dollar

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 5, 2013 9:07 AM CST

(Newser) – The bolivar is in freefall. Panicked Venezuelans are rushing to buy dollars before their savings become worthless, which is only exacerbating the trend. Faced with this crisis, Nicolas Maduro's government has stepped up … and blocked Bit.ly? The popular link-shortening service has become collateral damage in the government's effort to block access to sites that track the exchange rate—where citizens would be able to see that the going black market rate for a dollar is 10 times the government's official 6.3-to-1, the AP reports.

Bit.ly's shortened links provided a way around the censorship, so the service was blocked without warning a few weeks ago. Before that, it had been logging about 1.5 million clicks a day from Venezuela. "It's like shutting down all the highways in the country because there was an accident on one street," complains one Caracas-based tech columnist. The state-run telecom Conatel has also asked Twitter to block any accounts that shared non-official currency rates, a request Twitter has so far ignored.

In this February file photo, a protester in Caracas holds up a fake Venezuelan banknote that reads, This is the revolution. Poor Bolivar, with the value of 100 crossed out and 54 written next to it.
In this February file photo, a protester in Caracas holds up a fake Venezuelan banknote that reads, "This is the revolution. Poor Bolivar," with the value of 100 crossed out and 54 written next to it.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
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