'Bay Of Tweets Invasion' Legitimizes Nearly Every Crackpot Anti-US Claim From Dictators Around The Globe
from the a-complete-disaster dept
In fact, the impact is being seen already. Remember how we'd just been discussing Turkey's latest attempt to ban Twitter? Zeynep Tufecki explains how this latest news has played right into the hands of Turkey's Prime Minister, noting that the Twitter ban was actually a calculated strategy to appeal to the fears of lower- and middle-class Turks that Twitter was part of an American plot to foment unrest. To have the ZunZuneo story come out days later simply serves to better confirm that plot:
Until now, though, in trying to paint their online critics as “foreign agents,” these governments were grasping at straws. For example, lacking a better model, Ankara’s AKP mayor, Melih Gokcek, who became the Turkish government’s most vocal spokesperson during the Gezi protests, kept referring to OTPOR — the small, insignificant and defunct Serbian activist organization that received USAID funding in the 1990s — as supposedly the power behind all global protests, including Gezi.Meanwhile, what seemed like wacky conspiracy theories a month ago concerning USAID's efforts in Ukraine to overthrow the government there, suddenly seem more legitimate. In fact, most of the claims do appear to be nothing more than crazy conspiracy theories, but prior to the ZunZuneo story coming out, most people would have assumed that that, too, was a crazy conspiracy theory. And that's the huge problem here. Even if most of what USAID does is really important and valuable work for truly noble purposes, the ZunZuneo story undermines all of that, by making any conspiracy story seem legit. Last year, people thought Bolivian President Evo Morales was crazy for expelling USAID, claiming that it was seeking to "conspire against" the Bolivian government. Suddenly it's tough to assume that his claims weren't accurate. Similarly, with this story, there are suddenly additional stories coming out of highly questionable activities by USAID, which often look quite a lot like intelligence activities to undermine foreign governments.
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.
In fact, Glenn Greenwald is reporting that the ZunZuneo story is just a drop in the bucket of US propaganda efforts around the globe.
These ideas–discussions of how to exploit the internet, specifically social media, to surreptitiously disseminate viewpoints friendly to western interests and spread false or damaging information about targets–appear repeatedly throughout the archive of materials provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Documents prepared by NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ–and previously published by The Intercept as well as some by NBC News–detailed several of those programs, including a unit devoted in part to “discrediting” the agency’s enemies with false information spread online.And, once again, even if the actual impact of these programs is limited, the mere perception that the US government is engaged in these kinds of practices helps push along pretty much any conspiracy theory about US government involvement, no matter how wacky or ridiculous. So, in a bumbling effort to spread a pro-US, pro-democracy message, USAID appears to have done the exact opposite, and handed crackpot authoritarian dictators ever more ammunition to crack down on actual American humanitarian aid and tools for communication.