Google helps publishers avoid government's censorship in Venezuela

Android-only app aims to help users access blocked sites

By Cody Weddle, Andrea Torres - Digital Reporter/Producer

CARACAS - Melanio Escobar, a Venezuelan activist who supports freedom of the press, has been helping Google to test the Intra app, which is meant to help users to defy government censorship and help journalists to disseminate their work. 

The government owns CANTV, the largest internet service provider. According to the Press and Society Institute of Venezuela, a press freedom group, CANTV, Molvinet, Movistar and Digitel were censoring about 50 sites including El Pitazo and El Nacional

Cesar Batiz, news director of El Pitazo, believes this is because their reporting is often critical of the government and sheds light on public corruption and human rights violations. The daily page views plummet when the government manages to block access. They have been publishing audio messages to their subscribers on Whatsapp.  

The Android-only app launched worldwide on Oct. 3 and was updated Oct. 20. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. 

It is designed by Jigsaw to protect users from the manipulation of the Domain Name System, or DNS, the phonebook of the internet, which blocks access to news sites and messaging apps. It does it by encrypting the user's internet connection. 

The code for the app is open to the public, so the designers welcome input from consumers on Reddit and from coders on GitHub

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