The U.S. has already been heavily criticized for NSA’s global electronic spying programs, and now a new report by The Associated Press claims that the U.S. used an aid agency to develop and run a secret “Cuban Twitter” to spark unrest in the country. United States Agency for International Development a.k.a USAID was reportedly behind the project and it used secret shell companies to handle the finances. This also allowed the agency to circumvent Cuba’s strict internet laws.
Leaning on countless interviews and 1,000 pages of documents, the AP claims that USAID worked hard to hide Washington’s ties to the project. A memo from Mobile Accord Inc., one of the creators behind the project, reads that “there will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement,” the memo added that this was “absolutely crucial” for the project’s long term success. Though Matt Herrick, a spokesman for the agency told AP that U.S. congressional investigators reviewed programs last year and found them within the boundaries of the law.
The project, called ZunZuneo which is Cuban slang for a hummingbird’s tweet, lived for two years and drew more than 40,000 users. They were drawn in with noncontroversial content, mostly messages about sports, weather and music. The idea was to build a substantial user base and then steadily lean towards political content in hopes of sparking spontaneous protests. AP cited one document which said that the goal of ZunZuneo was to “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
Obviously the users wouldn’t have known that ZunZuneo had been designed and was being operated by a U.S. agency. They also were unaware that their personal information was being collected. The project ended in September 2012, AP reports.
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