The Associated Press has an interesting story about another USAID project to overthrow the government of Cuba. USAID used several front companies to create a Twitter like SMS phone service in Cuba which was, after becoming popular, supposed to be used to initiate anti-government flash mobs and civil strife.
At its peak, the project drew in more than 40,000 Cubans to share news and exchange opinions. But its subscribers were never aware it was created by the U.S. government, or that American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes.
"There will be absolutely no mention of the United States government involvement," according to a 2010 memo from Mobile Accord, one of the project's contractors. "This is absolutely crucial for the long-term success of the service and to ensure the success of the Mission."
Somewhat astonishing is again the long term effort, the tenancy and the seemingly unlimited amount of money going into such subversive U.S. programs.
USAID has long been used to "promote democracy", i.e. to overthrow any government the U.S. government does not like. Several foreign governments have taken the right steps and banned USAID activities in their countries. But with the use of front companies in various countries and methods similar to the CIA some critical USAID work is off the record and often hidden behind seemingly native and harmless programs. The open and legal USAID work, for example some 65 projects in the Ukraine, is often only a cover for its deeper projects.
As in the case the AP story uncovers USAID and various other government services may create and use online tools to influence masses and abuse them for their own purpose. Russia Today is promoting a new app through which people can "vote" like in a Occupy general assembly. But unlike such an Occupy assembly, where people are physically present, such an online vote tally can be easily manipulated to pretend a consensus for something that is not consensual at all.
It is important not only to be aware of the possible manipulation but to also warn others, especially younger people, of the danger of accepting "virtual" persons, movements and politics as a replacement of the real world. While it is also possible to manipulate the factual reality it is much more expensive to do so than to abuse the "virtual" online realm.
While USAID had to create a Twitter clone for its purpose in Cuba it does not have to do so in other countries. There Twitter is already established and can be readily (ab-)used by foreign governments just like USAID had planned for its Cuba clone. Blocking Twitter, as Turkey has recently done, may be at times necessary to prevent U.S. sponsored "regime change" endeavors.
This commentary originally appeared on the Moon of Alabama