Homophobia and cyberbullying: Strategies the Cuban government uses against LGBTI+ journalists


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From left: YouTuber Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata and journalist Ezequiel Fuentes are the latest targets of cyberbullying in Cuba. (Photos: Facebook)

Cuban reporters and activists have been targeted by cyberbullies on their social media networks.

“State security kept my telephone and hacked into all of my (social media) accounts”, said YouTuber Nelson Julio Álvarez Mairata, known as Nexy J Show in social media networks, after he was detained this Wednesday, the second time he was detained in less than three days.

Nelson was detained for the first time this Monday (Oct. 21) in Santa Clara in central Cuba while he was broadcasting live for the Paparazzi Cubano Facebook page. A short time later he was accused of “disturbing public order”, as confirmed by Tremenda Nota.

Nexy is one of the few Cuban YouTubers with a queer profile. He has most recently worked as a reporter on social media and has contributed to media outlets like ADN Cuba and Tremenda Nota.

He was arrested for a second time this Wednesday (Oct. 23) a few hours after his release. The police confiscated his cell phone and other items he used for work. Unusual content appeared on the social media pages he manages a few hours after their confiscation.

“María la del Barrio” was the name the hacker assigned to the YouTuber’s profile on Facebook. They added a cover photo with a message in support of the Cuban revolution posted texts under Álvarez Mairata’s likeness to complain about the reported low salary he had as a freelancer.

(Screenshot)

Dozens of LGBTI+ activists and journalists on Facebook denounced the hacking of his account until it was suspended.

Nelson responded to María la del Barrio’s denomination with humor. “They try to ridicule me for being gay, but they don’t understand I can handle these apparent insults well”, he told Tremenda Nota.

Yandry García, who operates a page with content that is dedicated to the community in Sagua la Grande, the city from which Álvarez Mairata comes, said another fake Facebook account published “intimate photographs of Nelson” last night. The profile was reported and is no longer available.

Another LGBTI+ reporter and activist on Oct. 22 reported being harassed on their social media networks.

“State security attacks, this time against me and is taking advantage of my breakup”, wrote Ezequiel Fuentes, a contributor to independent media outlets CubaNet, 14ymedio and CiberCuba.

Fuentes says state security is behind a post published on Facebook under the name María Lourdes González, a profile without a photo.

The post, published as a comment, threatens Fuentes and tells him he is being watched.

Cyberbullying is one of the main strategies the Cuban government uses to discredit the work of independent journalists; human rights defenders and political opponents, though it is also one of the most difficult things to monitor and verify.

The accounts that are used usually disappear quickly, sometimes with the permission of those who operate them or when those who are targeted and their colleagues denounce them.

The release of private photos, often of sexual content, is one of these hackers’ most common practices.

 

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