#BayofTweets: The Cuban Twitter Nightmare

Cuban flags. Photo: Frans Persoon

Cuban flags. Photo: Frans Persoon on Flickr.

You have probably already heard about the controversy around the USAID-funded Twitter-like service ZunZuneo.

If not, here it is in all brevity: an AP report claims that the programme was set up by USAID with the hidden agenda of trying to overthrow the Cuban government. USAID denies this.

Whether it is true or not, this is a real blow to the many ICT for Development initiatives around the world, particularly the ones that are trying to operate in countries with governments that have a very critical view of social media, freedom of expression and the internet as a whole. As Wayan Vota puts it in his excellent and highly recommended blog post on the matter: “Cuban Twitter sets us back a decade!

The reason: now every ICT4Dev initiative has to deal with the added suspicion that it might be a CIA ploy. In some ways this reminds me of the fake polio campaign that the CIA conducted in Pakistan to track down Bin Laden and which since then has cost many real polio workers their lives and seriously undermined the fight against the disease. While the polio ploy was more serious, there are already indications that the ZunZuneo debacle might make the life for bloggers and digital activists more difficult.

What are your thoughts? Please share them in the comments section below.