The Associated Press has been made aware of over 1,000 pages of documents asserting that the U.S. government along with USAID founded a fraudulent Twitter company to force democracy in Cuba. The revelations were published early Thursday morning after an investigation from the AP uncovered ZunZuneo, the slang word in Cuba for a hummingbird’s tweet, had ties to fake shell companies directed through foreign banks. The mission of ZunZuneo was to garnish as many “organic” Cuban followers as possible, and from there “push” them into political unrest.
The design began with inconspicuous conversation topics like sports and music. Gradually the operators would post political content to “inspire” demonstrations. In the meantime, operators were collecting scores of data on users, categorizing them in “political leanings” as well as personality types for future political purposes.
The whole notion of undermining the government in Cuba which has strict control over the internet and internal dissent is something Hillary Rodham Clinton addressed back in 2011 when she vowed the United States would be vigilant in ensuring internet freedom around the world. The latest subversive move by the U.S. government under its humanitarian organization USAID seems to do more to undermine freedom of choice, instead pushing for the manipulation of choice.
The revelation has come to haunt USAID, The United States Agency for International Development. The agency relies on the goodwill and trust of foreign nations to provide humanitarian assistance to those in need. The truth of USAID’s involvement in the conspiratorial plot to unsow unrest in Cuba could hurt the agency’s current and future missions around the world.
Users of the website said they had no idea the website was sponsored by the U.S. government. One user named Guerra rhetorically asked how he was supposed to know the U.S. was funding ZunZuneo. “It’s not like there was a sign saying ‘Welcome to ZunZuneo, brought to you by USAID.”
The U.S. government went to great lengths to build a legitimate appearance behind the website, even conjuring false advertisers and banners for the website to make it seem as though multiple private entities were supporting the online venture. In reality these ads were for fraudulent companies, and the revenue generated from the website was funneled through foreign banks in the Cayman Islands to ensure there was “no connection” between the United States and the website. Analysts say if such a tie were revealed, the Cuban government would have been swift to shut it down.
The U.S. government’s attempt in fomenting a natural revolt through the mechanisms of social media should come as a cautionary warning. The ability for a powerful government to infiltrate the internet and pose as a harbinger of free speech and democratic choice insidiously neglects the fact that it is for the sole purpose of national interest. Users of this website had their lives manipulated and their privacy violated for the cause of American special interests.
It seems as though the U.S. government has for the better part of a century adopted the foreign policy of “the ends justify the means,” disregarding the inadvertent consequence of betraying entire populations and undermining civil society. From extrajudicial drone strikes, to fraudulent social media environments, to NSA wiretapping, the U.S. government has gone to great lengths to justify their meddling in the lives of individuals abroad and citizens at home.
The veil of protecting national security is the claim tossed over the countless lives and victims of such policies, and until we as a nation address the ever-present balance between liberty and security, we will forever remain at the mercy of those who swear they are trying to protect us from ourselves.