The network was called ZunZuneo, which was a play on twitter, with the word being slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet. The project was financed by the US Agency for international development (USAID), best known for overseeing billions of dollars in US humanitarian aid.
USAID staff had noted that text messaging had been a popular fuse in starting political uprisings in Moldova and the Philippines. At its peak, the site had more than 40,000 subscribers, who were never aware that the network was created by the US government.
“There will be absolutely no mention of United States government involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project’s contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the mission.”
To try and hide their tracks, they used a maze of different companies, with a bank account from the Cayman Islands to make sure that no one could ever find out this was an operation set up by the United States.
Although the project had hoped to obtain 400,000 subscribers, they eventually decided to cap the number at 40,000 by the end March 2011, which was less than one percent of the population of Cuba.
Interest was being lost in the project with every month that passed, and, by the summer of 2012, Cubans began to complain that the service was inconsistent, and then one day it just disappeared.
The United States discreetly supported the creation of a website and SMS service that was, basically, a Cuban version of Twitter, the Associated Press reported Thursday. ZunZuneo, as it was called, permitted Cubans to broadcast short text messages to each other. At its peak, ZunZuneo had 40,000 users.
And what government agency made ZunZuneo? It wasn’t the CIA. No, it was the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID, working with various private companies, including the D.C. for-profit contractor Creative Associates and a small, Denver-based startup, Mobile Accord.
The news about ZunZuneo broke Thursday morning, around 3 a.m. Eastern time. 11 hours before, I had been in the D.C. offices of none other than Mobile Accord, talking to the company’s president about a future product release.
Havana, Apr 4 (Prensa Latina) - Cuba’s Foreign Ministry says that the recent revelations about the U.S. government plan to create a “Cuban Twitter” for destabilizing purposes proves that Washington persists in its subversive plans against the island.
According to a report published yesterday by the Associated Press (AP) news agency, the U.S. government plan to create a communications network it called ZunZuneo was carried out with the goal of gaining acceptance among young Cubans in order to later push them toward dissidency.
The AP’s investigative report showed that the plan to undermine the Cuban government was promoted by the USAID agency (U.S. Agency for International Development), through clandestine front companies, with financing routed through foreign banks.
A statement from Josefina Vidal, Director General for U.S. Affairs at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations, emphasized that the information contained in the AP article is a confirmation of repeated denunciations from the Cuban government.
“Once again, it shows that the United States government has not renounced its subversive plans against Cuba, designed to destabilize the country in order to provoke change in our political system, and to which the U.S. government continues to dedicate multi-million dollar budgets every year,” she said.
Vidal also insisted that “the U.S. government must respect international law and the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, thereby putting an end to its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba that are rejected by the Cuban people and public opinion worldwide."
Last week, we learned from the Associated Press that USAID (United States Agency for International Development) — the government agency which manages billions in overseas “humanitarian” aid programs — plotted to overthrow Cuba’s communist regime via a covertly-funded fake Twitter platform.
The idea was to get Cuba’s youth to sign up for ZunZuneo (Cuban slang for the sound hummingbirds make—get it?) without anyone knowing about USAID’s involvement, get the kids hooked on pointless tweeting, collect all sorts of data on the users, and then rile them into an anti-regime rage — a “Cuban Spring” revolution.
Presumably the US government had been studying Twitter’s ability to supercharge its users with outrage vapors here in the Free World, where legions of credulous idiots spend their waking hours chasing the outrage dragon. It was only a matter of time before some DC spooks and Northern Virginia contractors would see the angles.
Of course, the ZunZuneo plan failed. ZunZuneo collapsed, a bunch of money went missing (likely into the coffers of the Castro regime’s state-controlled telecoms firm, or so they say), and the Communist Cuban menace still threatens the Free World’s slick underbelly.
The US government has operated multiple social media services around the world in hopes of providing a forum for debate and possibly political unrest. The programs, which operated in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, and dozens of other countries, were similar to ZunZuneo, a US-created social media service that had 40,000 users in Cuba at its peak. That program, which was secretly run out of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), was uncovered by the Associated Press earlier this month in an extensive report. At its peak, the text messaging-based service — which has been described as “Cuban Twitter” — had some 40,000 users. It abruptly shut down in 2012 after officials ran out of cash and failed to make the service self-sustainable.
The additional programs were revealed by officials in the Obama administration on Friday, according to The New York Times. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the social media services were run by the State Department, not USAID, and few details are available on the scope of the programs. The Pakistani program, called Humari Awaz (Our Voices), wasn’t run in secret: US officials worked with the Pakistani government and telecommunications companies in the country to promote it. However, it — as well as the program in Afghanistan — were shut down like ZunZuneo. Another program in Kenya, called Yes Youth Can, is still active and is being run by USAID, according to the report. The targets of dozens of other programs are unknown, but officials say there were plans to start services in Nigeria and Zimbabwe. Both government agencies began running such programs after uprisings during the Arab Spring in 2010, which have been linked to the flow of information enabled by social media networks.