Politico's Zeynep Tufekci takes a look at ZunZuneo, a "Cuban Twitter" that was created via a "byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the U.S. government," in the hopes of creating an Arab-spring equivalent in Cuba. It didn't quite work out and, if anything, it has made things worse for social media in oppressive regimes.
I suspect there will be no more grasping at straws after ZunZeneo. Secretly funded by the U.S. government? Check. Aimed for regime change? Check. Collected information from unsuspecting users for political purposes? Check. Tried clumsily to hide its tracks? Check. The "Cuban Twitter" was a dictator's fever dream made real.
Unfortunately, what might have been a well-meaning attempt to bring some free speech to the Castro's Cuba now threatens the efforts of millions of people around the world who are harnessing the power of social media to challenge censorship and propaganda, and have no connection to the U.S. government. Admittedly, most authoritarian governments hardly needed an excuse to taint social media as a tool of foreign powers. They've being doing it for years. But for their core supporters, their rantings about American plots behind every tweet just got a lot more credible.
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