Staff Editorial: U.S.’s revolutionary twitter shut down

By Duke Staff

Can a Twitter account start a revolution? Probably not your Twitter, but the U.S. government may have achieved this in Cuba.

Launched in 2010, the U.S. Agency for International Development overtly created a network similar to Twitter called ZunZuneo. The program, now dissolved, operated through the country’s text messaging system to bypass government-censored Internet access and sendt coded, politically satirical messages to those subscribed to the service. According to The Atlantic, the service had 40,000 users, plenty of whom were unaware that it was backed by the U.S. government.

Brought to surface recently by an Associated Press exposé, ZunZuneo, USAID and the U.S. government were accused of promoting an uprising among the people of Cuba against their government. The U.S.’s response? A digital denial.

USAID claimed that the program was merely meant to “increase the flow of information,” AP reported. But the texts sent were far from “informational.” Messages that made light of the Castro brothers and other politicians were transmitted to thousands of users’ cellphones. Although innocent in practice, it’s clear that the messages were written to instigate a certain response from the public of Cuba and the U.S.’s denial only adds to the controversy.

The ZunZuneo network was deceptive in nature, but for all the right reasons. The U.S.’s idea of a public forum to send messages, organize demonstrations and communicate with likeminded individuals is a step forward for the island country that is so heavily restricted by government censorship. But simply because the act could have induced positive results does not mean the government should have meddled with another country.

Throughout history America has taken on other countries internal conflicts in an attempt to help. Look at the democratic voting system enacted in Afghanistan. As of last week, it attracted close to 60 percent of 12 million citizens to participate in the voting polls, according to Reuters. The government has worked with others before to create lasting changes, but what’s been done in Cuba is hardly the right way of going about things. The actions show that we have taken it too far.

To spend years invested in a covert operation that purposely evades political officials in an attempt to inspire revolt among another country’s people can only cause more harm than good. Not only will this damage our already frail ties to Cuba, but it will also tighten up internal security as well.
While the intentions of the United States were progressive, our actions were not.