Despite evidence to the contrary (Healthcare.gov), the U.S. government is tech-savvy—at least when it comes to attempts at toppling foreign governments. Starting in 2009, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), dispersed propaganda through a mobile-based social networking site in Cuba named ZunZuneo. Yes, THAT USAID—the State Department-run organization that tries to convince poor nations that it doesn’t run covert operations and is only interested in feeding, educating, and inoculating locals.
The targeting strategy seems a little obtuse. Cubans would be lured into using ZunZuneo through mundane topics such as the weather and sports, but then would gradually be introduced to more political, anti-communist messages in the hope that they would eventually foment unrest. You know, because any random person who would be interested in sports and weather would also be interested in fighting a communist government that’s in its death throes.
Despite its lackluster content and poor targeting, the project management was at least impressive. Funding was operated through shell companies in the Cayman Islands—maybe they got this tip from the Financial Services Committee. Messages were sent out through servers in other countries—maybe they got this tip from Wikileaks.
Funding for the project ran out in 2012 when USAID couldn’t interest Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey in providing investment for expansion. Maybe victory through genuine grassroots Twitter protests in Egypt, Turkey, and Tunisia has made these intrigues seem like they belong in the Cold War era.