|Social network service, microblogging|
|United States Agency for International Development|
ZunZuneo was an online United States state owned company social networking and microblogging service marketed to Cuban users. The service was created in 2010 by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The U.S. government covertly developed the service as a long-term strategy to encourage Cuban youths to revolt against the nation's government, fomenting a "Cuban Spring"—a reference to the Arab Spring revolutions. The initiative also appears to have had a surveillance dimension, allowing "a vast database about Cuban ZunZuneo subscribers, including gender, age, 'receptiveness' and 'political tendencies'" to be built. The word "zunzuneo" is Cuban slang for a hummingbird's call.
Contractors funded by USAID "set up a byzantine system of front companies using a Cayman Islands bank account, and recruit[ed] unsuspecting executives who would not be told of the company's ties to the U.S. government," according to an Associated Press (AP) report which traced the origin of the service. ZunZuneo, dubbed the "Cuban Twitter", reached at least 40,000 Cuban subscribers but was retired in 2012 without notice. According to AP the service was ended because of the expiration of the grant that funded the program. While initially the service attracted subscribers by having discussions on topics such as sports, the plans were to introduce political messages to encourage dissent.
The AP released an exposé on ZunZuneo in April 2014. Following the report, the U.S. government acknowledged that it funded the service but denied that it was a covert program. According to a USAID spokesperson, the program was reviewed by the Government Accountability Office in 2013, and found to have been executed in accordance with U.S. law. The United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations requested documents about the program from USAID.