Zeynep Tufekci identifies another problem with the ridiculous “Cuban Twitter” scheme, which is that it makes things more difficult for online activists in many other countries by providing a ready-made example of U.S. interference for their governments to use against them:
Unfortunately, what might have been a well-meaning attempt to bring some free speech to the Castros’ Cuba now threatens the efforts of millions of people around the world who are harnessing the power of social media to challenge censorship and propaganda, and have no connection to the U.S. government. Admittedly, most authoritarian governments hardly needed an excuse to taint social media as a tool of foreign powers. They’ve being doing it for years. But for their core supporters, their rantings about American plots behind every tweet just got a lot more credible.
The odd thing is that the people responsible for ZunZuneo reportedly understood from the start that the effort would fail if it were linked with the U.S. government, but they seemed to be unaware of or indifferent to the dangers they were exposing the service’s users and other online activists to in the process because of Washington’s support. It requires a remarkable degree of cynicism or an astonishing degree of naivete to try to promote political unrest in a dictatorship without thinking through what the negative consequences might be. Maybe at some point the U.S. will learn that its attempts to “help” foreign dissidents and activists can frequently do them much more harm than good.