US Admits It Secretly Built Similar Twitter-Like Services For Lots Of Countries

from the because-usaid dept

Following the revelations that the US had secretly attempted to build a Twitter-like service in Cuba, the US government has now admitted that it has tried to do the same thing in a bunch of different countries, some with more success than others. According to the NY Times:
The United States built Twitter-like social media programs in Afghanistan and Pakistan, like one in Cuba, that were aimed at encouraging open political discussion, Obama administration officials said Friday. But like the program in Cuba, which was widely ridiculed when it became public this month, the services in Pakistan and Afghanistan shut down after they ran out of money because the administration could not make them self-sustaining.

In all three cases, American officials appeared to lack a long-term strategy for the programs beyond providing money to start them.

Administration officials also said Friday that there had been similar programs in dozens of other countries, including a Yes Youth Can project in Kenya that was still active.
While you can see the appeal of better helping citizens in these countries communicate with each other, the secrecy concerning who is behind them is where it gets troubling. As the case in Cuba with ZunZuneo, we noted that this helps legitimize every crackpot theory about how various programs are really US government fronts.

In fact, as you read the details of these programs, many of them do appear to have been set up with perfectly noble intentions, to help people better communicate and share ideas. But having the US government behind them -- especially given all of the recent revelations about US surveillance -- completely undermines that intent. Furthermore, it really doesn't seem like any of these services have had much of an impact at all. Instead, in all of the cases where we've heard of social networking services having any impact, they're when citizens of a country adopt existing services, like Twitter and Facebook, rather than these specialized "local" services.

Filed Under: afghanistan, communications, cuba, kenya, pakistan, social media, state department, surveillance, usaid
Companies: yes youth can, zunzuneo

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2014 @ 7:26am


    They do support RFE there and several election-related information activities have been used in the past. But this kind of activity doesn't seem to be as relevant.

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