Havana Accuses Twitter of Tweaking Algorithm to Destabilize Situation in the Country
© AP Photo / Ramon EspinosaA classic American car flying a Cuban flag drives past the American embassy during a rally calling for the end of the US blockade against the island nation, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, March 28, 2021.
© AP Photo / Ramon Espinosa
The popular US microblogging site has often been accused of ideological and geopolitical bias, deleting or shadowbanning tens of thousands of media and government accounts from countries with which Washington has poor relations, and targeting domestic politicians as well, most prominently Donald Trump.
Twitter is engaging in a “crude manipulation of its algorithm” to give the false impression that there are far more users inside Cuba opposed to the government than is the case, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla has alleged.
In a three part Twitter thread Saturday, Rodriguez said that an analysis had uncovered that only 15 percent of the tweets published on the platform between 12:00 and one pm local time on Friday “with the hashtag used by in the US-funded operation” were made by users from inside Cuba.
“As I denounced in a presentation to the diplomatic corps, private US platforms such as Twitter violate their own rules and policies, alter geolocation mechanisms to favour toxic operations against Cuba, and instigate destabilization actions,” the foreign minister wrote.
Rodriguez’ comments followed the circulation of a new hashtag on popular social networks including Twitter urging Cubans to come out for a fresh anti-government demonstrations across the country on 15 November – the day authorities are planning to reopen the country and ease travel restrictions to foreign tourists.
In a related development, Rodriguez tweeted Sunday that a major VPN service operating 19 servers located in the US has offered free VPN services to users hailing from Cuba, while the rest of the world must continue to pay for it.
“When a product like this is free only for residents of Cuba, it means they want to sell our sovereignty. It is a lucrative business for the subversive anti-Cuban industry that is desperately betting on a destabilization plan doomed to failure,” the diplomat suggested. He did not elaborate.
2 November 2021, 01:17 GMT
Unlike some other communist one party states, like China, Cuba has not cracked down on Twitter, Facebook, or other Western social media giants, in spite of their broad use by anti-government protesters in the 11-17 July protests across the island.
Between 2010 and 2012, USAID also operated a separate social networking and microblogging service marketed specifically to Cuban users known as ZunZuneo as part of a long-term strategy to destabilize the country and overthrow the government. The platform was reportedly set up using Cayman Islands front companies, and amassed a user base of over 40,000 before being dissolved – not due to any action by the Cuban government, but because funding ran out. In 2014, the US Office of Cuba Broadcasting – a state-owned radio and television broadcaster based in Miami, announced a successor known as Piramideo, with that platform designed to spread pro-US, anti-communist propaganda.
Cuba faced its largest anti-government protests since 1994 and the Special Period in July, with the demonstrations reportedly sparked by anger over shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities amid an economic crunch caused by global coronavirus lockdowns and crushing US sanctions pressure. Successive US administrations have been trying to overthrow Cuba's communist government since 1959.
5 November 2021, 17:39 GMT