Twitter is all around the world these days. It’s become a publicly-traded company and it’s also become a huge, necessary part of global communication. In fact, there are only a few countries that don’t get Twitter, or that get censored versions of Twitter, and one of those countries is a short raft ride from the United States. That would be Cuba, which for two years or so had its own version of Twitter created by a consortium of companies, or so the Cubans believed. As it turns out, the United States government was behind Cuba’s version of Twitter, AKA ZunZuneo. (It’s named after the sound a hummingbird makes.)
ZunZuneo was created by USAID using a series of front companies in Europe and the Caribbean, and it had about 40,000 Cuban users before the government pulled funding from it in September 2012 after two successful years of spreading dissent and presumably terrible memes in Cuba. Amazingly, the government only spent $1.6 million on the project before it ended, which doesn’t sound a lot like the government, but hey, maybe they’re getting more efficient. As for USAID, they maintain their product was innocent.
“USAID is a development agency, not an intelligence agency, and we work all over the world to help people exercise their fundamental rights and freedoms, and give them access to tools to improve their lives and connect with the outside world,” said USAID spokesman Matt Herrick.
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