Digital media

Although the government’s intervention and limitation of freedom of speech online is also problematic, as 112 blockades and attacks took place in 2019 –more than doubling the 48 violations of 2018– against digital media (Espacio Público, 2020c), the Internet has gained relevance after the decrease of trust in traditional media, subject to government control. The lack of newsprint paper, making many traditional newspapers exist only in their digital versions, has also helped this transition. Nonetheless, the control of the government over online communication, especially thanks to the Law against Hate passed in 2017, has increased, closing websites and blocking international media. According to Freedom House, the Freedom on the Net 2019 in Venezuela was 30/100, 100 being the best result and a punctuation below 39, which describes this country as not free.

The penetration rate of Internet in Venezuela reaches 65 percent (Tendencias Digitales, 2019), although it is one of the lowest rates in the Latin American region. This can be partially explained due to the fails in the connectivity infrastructure and the low speed of the connections. Together with the digital sites of traditional media, including newspapers that could not keep their printed version, like Tal Cual or El Nacional, some of the most popular and influential information pages in Venezuela are La Patilla, Efecto Cocuyo, Caraota Digital, El Pitazo or Runrunes. The presence of state-owned news portals is not big and it is easier than in traditional media to find independent or alternative voices. There exist local and regional media, as well as international, but media with national information are the most relevant and influential.

Delphos shows Internet as the main source of information for 8.8 percent of Venezuelans, while for Hinterlaces (in Pinillos, 2018) is an 11 percent. According to the Penetración y usos de Internet en Venezuela 2018 study by Tendencias Digitales, there is a balance in the adoption rate of Internet by men and women. The biggest digital divide can be found between young people (100 percent adoption rate) and people over 60 (26 percent). Income level plays also a significant role, as adoption is more extended among high income levels (100 percent) than in the lowest (54 percent). Most people (75 percent) use their desktop computer, followed by their mobile phones (56 percent) and their laptops (14 percent). In 2019, the study El consumidor digital en Venezuela, also by Tendencias Digitales, showed that mailing, banking-related tasks, getting information or checking social networks are the most common activities online.

Citizen journalism is quite spread, as it has been one of the only alternatives to escape from the control of the government (Ramírez, 2016), but allowing the spread of fake news or low quality contents, as we will develop in chapter Social Network. It has also increased the polarisation of the parts in conflict, as most sites can be clearly identified as supporters of one or the other side. Internet has also allowed international media to gain presence as alternative sources of information.