10 Updates

Why The U.S. Government's Fake 'Cuban Twitter' Service Failed

Apr 3 2014, 5:26pm CDT | by

It’s almost common these days for state-run parties to subvert grassroots movements. During the heyday of Anonymous, a hacktivist community born on 4chan and organized by hackers in chat rooms,...

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16 weeks ago

Why The U.S. Government's Fake 'Cuban Twitter' Service Failed

Apr 3 2014, 5:26pm CDT | by

It’s almost common these days for state-run parties to subvert grassroots movements. During the heyday of Anonymous, a hacktivist community born on 4chan and organized by hackers in chat rooms, federal authorities tried to usurp the collective with a honeypot-style movement called AntiSec. Not long after, AntiSec lost steam and fell apart.

A more fundamental failure hit ZunZuneo, a social-change project in Cuba that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) quietly created in 2009. The so-called “Cuban Twitter” shut down three years later when it failed to survive without state funding, and started getting blocked by the Cuban government.

The fake service allowed Cubans to send texts freely and anonymously to one another. USAID’s goal, according to the Associated Press , which cites government documents about the project, was to surreptitiously incite “smart mobs,” or spontaneous political rallies against Fidel Castro’s restrictive government.

U.S. officials have confirmed the government was behind the ZunZuneo project, calling it a discreet form of humanitarian aid and denying it was covert .

The aid agency’s Office of Transition Initiative division kickstarted the project after one of its sources obtained a database of half a million Cuban cell phone numbers. With the help of contractors the agency hid behind the guise of a hip, social-media service, then spammed those phone number with with texts bearing news snippets or satirical jokes. It relied on a complex network of spoof servers and front companies to disguise ZunZuneo’s origins in the United States.

This was secretive marketing for political purposes, an ill-fated attempt to copy the organic wave of 2011 Arab Spring protests that gathered momentum thanks to Twitter.

At first, it worked. ZunZuneo’s early users were people like Saimi Reyes Carmona, a Cuban journalism student quoted in the AP’s story , who could send free texts to thousands of followers under a nickname, free from the prying eyes of the Cuban government. Carmona recalled thinking at the time that ZunZuneo was “the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” She was later stunned to learn about the service’s origins.

null  It amassed 40,000 users but had no clear explanation for how it was paying thousands of dollars in texting fees each month. Contractors reportedly sent internal memos suggesting the service should cut financial ties with USAID and continue promoting political change in Cuba — but the ideas weren’t sustainable. Even with tens of thousands of users, targeted advertising simply wouldn’t make enough money in a developing nation like Cuba. By June 2012, ZunZuneo was offline.

Given how pervasive mobile messaging apps can be, governments around the world have almost certainly flirted with ways they can co-opt them for snooping or marketing, or create their own as USAID did. But the most effective route may be to work, transparently, with popular services that already exist.

In India, political parties have used messaging giant WhatsApp to send text  messages to hundreds of thousands of their constituents, with the goal of reaching young, tech-savvy voters. Rather than pilfering a database of phone numbers, they require party members to sign up to their WhatsApp group voluntarily.

It’s unclear if USAID has since tried repeating the fake, ZunZuneo project in some other part of the world.

“It depends on the results of this mission,” says J.J. Thomson, CEO of security consultancy Rook Security. “If the core objective was fulfilled then it is likely to be replicated.”

Considering the failure of ZunZuneo, the answer may well be “no.”

 
Update
10

6 weeks ago

RM47mil KWSG contributions still unclaimed

Jun 9 2014 7:54am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Cambodia's Famous Battambang Circus
KUALA LUMPUR: About RM47 million of contributions in the Teachers Provident Fund (KWSG) still remain unclaimed, the Dewan Rakyat was told today. ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
9

6 weeks ago

Gold shop lost almost RM1mil

Jun 9 2014 3:50am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Melbourne Rising Media Launch
KANGAR: A gold shop owner lost almost RM1 million after after the safe on in his shop was brok ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
8

6 weeks ago

Motion to debate MAS losses in Dewan Rakyat rejected

Jun 9 2014 3:39am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Federal Aviation Administration Bans All US Flights To Israel
KUALA LUMPUR: AN emergency motion to debate the losses incurred by Malaysia Airlines last year, amounting to RM1.2 billion was rejected ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
7

6 weeks ago

MH370 Tragedy: Hisham: RM27.6 mil spent on 1st phase of SAR

Jun 9 2014 2:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia spent some RM27.6 million in its first phase of the search operations for missing Malaysia Airline flight MH370, said Acting Transport Minister, Datuk S ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
6

6 weeks ago

9.1m litres of diesel seized in a month

Jun 8 2014 1:11am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

INDIA-CHINA-DIPLOMACY-TRADE
PUTRAJAYA: The Domestic Trade, Cooperatives, and Consumerism ministry has seized some 9.1 million litres of diesel and property worth RM58 million since mounting ‘Operasi Diesel Selatan’ in the southern s ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
5

7 weeks ago

Girl, 9, awarded RM2.78m compensation for medical negligence

Jun 6 2014 4:56am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Government Weekly Cabinet Meeting
KUALA LUMPUR: A nine-year-old girl who suffered brain damage during her birth at a government hospital was awarded over RM2.78 million in co ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
4

7 weeks ago

Malaysia's total trade in April up 12pc

Jun 5 2014 11:52pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's total trade in April 2014 rose by 12 per cent from a year ago to RM123.86 billion due to growing trading activities, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mus ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
3

7 weeks ago

Works Ministry to spend RM20m for upgrading works at 50 accident black spots

Jun 4 2014 11:35pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

Iskandar Johor Open - Previews
JOHOR BARU: The Works Ministry will implement upgrading works at 50 accident prone locations in the country that have been identified this year involving an allocatio ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
2

7 weeks ago

Najib launches loan scheme for Ramadan traders

Jun 4 2014 10:24pm CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM - Day One
PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today launches RM45 million Ramadan Bazaar Scheme 20 ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 
Update
1

7 weeks ago

Residents bring up objection against Kidex to Suhakam

Jun 4 2014 4:49am CDT | Source: Business Times Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: A group of 20 Petaling Jaya residents held a meeting with the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) over their objection against the proposed RM2.2 billion Kin ...
Source: Business Times Malaysia   Full article at: Business Times Malaysia
 

 

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