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While the White House claims this ‘discreet democracy' program was meant as a positive force for the people of Cuba, the AP report calls it a covert operation to support political agendas and to promote unrest. The three year grant totaling 1.2 million dollars used “secret shell companies financed through foreign banks” to circumvent Cuba’s Internet policies. The Obama administration is emphatic that the program was not aimed at stirring up unrest nor was it covert (as it was discussed in congress).
Even if the US government was not seeking to cause political unrest, they admitted to using a ‘discrete’ program aimed at promoting democracy without the user’s knowledge. They implemented this program against a nation’s wishes, without the user’s consent, and chose to do so through USAID, which is supposed to be “fair with colleagues, partners, and those we serve, building relationships of trust.” The CIME blog has previously highlighted the potential affects of social media misuse, and while seemingly innocuous this program could have lasting negative affects for the Cuban people. Cuba could decide to deny USAID access, or Internet restrictions could become even more restrictive. Social Media is evolving to be a very powerful tool in a global context. While some countries are denying access, others are planting sites as if they were seeds and hoping for a democratic bloom.
- Carol Davey
White House - Statement of Press Sec. Jay Carney
The New Yorker
CIME blog - 'Tweeting' the Wrong Side of Sochi
USAID - Mission, Vision and Values
CIME blog - Turkey Lifts Twitter Ban