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The US created a clandestine social network like Twitter in Cuba that was funded by USAID and relied on text messages, reports GigaOm.

An AP investigation explains how USAID bought half a million cell-phone numbers on Cuba’s phone carrier and created a Twitter-like service that at its peak was used by 40,000 Cubans.

The secret program, which was implemented through shell companies and a Washington subcontractor, sought to take advantage of the growing use of cell phones by young Cubans.

The American officials running the program hoped that, by becoming linked on a social network, Cubans would have a powerful new communications platform that the Castro government would be afraid to shut down.

On one hand, the Cuban government still exercises stifling control over the internet and other forms of communication. In this regard, the “ZunZuneo” (Hummingbird) service can be seen as analogous to Radio Free Europe and other voices for free news, according to GigaOm. On the other, the US activity may stir up uncomfortable memories of Cold War era schemes.

Google’s Loon balloons, which circled the Earth in a record 22 days and Facebook’s solar-powered UAVs will almost certainly come under close scrutiny by every man, woman and child on the planet.

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