From 2010-2012, the U.S. Agency of International Development (US AID) worked on ZunZuneo, a project maketed to young Cubans. USAID is a government agency that oversees humanitarian aid and development projects. This particular project was designed to encourage young Cubans to revolt and stand up to the authoritarian model set in place. The company, Creative Associates, was hired to supply the phone numbers of thousands of Cubans then send casual text messages to them. The numbers were acquired by a contact at Cubacel
The plan was to send out nonchalant texts and eventually transition to propaganda-like messages to encourage revolt. Though the project stopped suddenly in 2012 due to a lack of funds, at some point, ZunZuneo reached almost 40,000 users. ZunZuneo also included a companion website where Cubans could subscribe and post feedback for free. The total cost or the two year project was about $1.6 million.
“Documents show the U.S. government planned to build a subscriber base through “non-controversial content”: news messages on soccer, music and hurricane updates. Later when the network reached a critical mass of subscribers, perhaps hundreds of thousands, operators would introduce political content aimed at inspiring Cubans to organize “smart mobs” — mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice that might trigger a Cuban Spring, or, as one USAID document put it, “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”
“By early 2011, Creative Associates grew exasperated with Mobile Accord’s failure to make ZunZuneo self-sustaining and independent of the US government. The operation had run into an unsolvable problem. USAID was paying tens of thousands of dollars in text messaging fees to Cuba’s communist telecommunications monopoly routed through a secret bank account and front companies. It was not a situation that it could either afford or justify — and if exposed it would be embarrassing, or worse.”