April 3, 2014
The ‘Tweet of Pigs’: US government used SMS to undermine Cuban government
According to a new report, authorities within the US government created an SMS messaging service based on Twitter to undermine Raul Catro’s government and spread misinformation. Silicon Republic reports.
According to the Associated Press (AP), the service known as ZunZuneo, slang for hummingbird in Cuba, would let mobile phone users in the Communist state to receive messages 140 characters or fewer, just like Twitter, over a range of topics from sport, weather and entertainment.
...The US government, having funded the project, aimed to eventually send messages which would be critical of the Cuban government and its ruler Raul Castro, brother of legendary revolutionary leader, Fidel Castro.
The service became popular with Cuba’s young, tech-savvy population as aside from being a way of keeping up to date with the latest news, people could send messages between each other free of charge.
In the same way as Twitter, users could follow other users by sending messages to follow to their favourite ZunZeneo users.
At the height of its popularity, it had an estimated 40,000 daily users, however, no one was aware of its origins in the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which aims to spread democracy as one of its core goals.
Read full article.
Update White House denies 'Cuban Twitter' ZunZuneo programme was covert (The Guardian)
The White House is claiming that a secret programme to build a carefully-disguised “Cuban Twitter”, in order to foment political opposition to the Castro regime, was “not covert” but rather a “discreet” form of humanitarian assistance.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Thursday that while in "non-permissive environments" it was necessary for USAid to be "discreet", the secret social-media initiative was “not a covert programme”.
“It was a development-assistance programme,” he said, adding: "I am not aware of individuals here in the White House who were involved.” He also said the programme was subject to congressional oversight.
Carney denied suggestions the programme was “under the table” or had “roped in” unsuspecting Cubans.
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