US Backed ‘Cuban Twitter’ to Foment Unrest

US Backed 'Cuban Twitter' to Foment Unrest

The US State Department’s USAID development agency secretly set up an anonymous SMS text messaging network in Cuba, according to an AP story this week. The service, called ZunZuneo after the Cuban Emerald Hummingbird, allowed users to send messages to multiple recipients, and system administrators to data-mine their content and information on subscribers, In its 2-year run in 2010 and 2011, ZunZuneo had as many as 40,000 users.

USAID responded to the AP story by saying “The purpose of the Zunzuneo project was to create a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves,” and  “we are proud of that.” USAID claimed the project was authorized by Congress, but the agency used offshore banks to hide the funding source. The White House said USAID wasn’t being covert, merely “discreet.” The US government had used ZunZuneo’s software contractor, Denver-based Mobile Accord, to set up Humari Awaz (“Our Voice”), a similar cell phone-based social media platform in Pakistan, but that was done publicly, in cooperation with host country’s government.


“US government harassed Castro with a fake Twitter service,” Amar Toor, The Verge

“Senator calls secret ‘Cuban Twitter’ program ‘dumb, dumb, dumb,'” Andrew Couts, The Daily Dot

“The Fall of Internet Freedom: Meet the Company That Secretly Built ‘Cuban Twitter,'” Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic

“Digital Diplomacy, Jesse Lichtenstein, New York Times Magazine

“Bay of Tweets,” Zeynep Tufekci, Politico Magazine


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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