U.S. funds stealth Facebook accounts in Cuba


The Office of Cuba Broadcasting, or OCB, pays Cuban contractors to create non-branded Facebook accounts that hide the fact that they are funded by the American government.
The OCB “is establishing on island digital teams to create non-branded local Facebook accounts to disseminate information,” according to a 2019 budget document. “Native pages increase the chances of appearing on Cuban Facebook users newsfeeds. The same strategy will be replicated on other preferred social media networks.”
The Broadcasting Board of Governor’s 2019 Congressional Budget Justification document said the OCB has steadily increased its social media presence in Cuba. Details from the document are below.

Notable FY 2019 Program Changes
The BBG is exploring the possibility of finding efficiencies between BBG’s two Spanish-language services – OCB and VOA’s Latin American (LatAm) division. Accordingly, the BBG will explore the cost-savings, benefits, and challenges of different organizational structures and, if savings and efficiencies are possible, develop a plan in FY 2018 to capitalize on them. Recognizing the complexity of this issue, the BBG will consider various options and speak with stakeholders to obtain all critical information and discern all costs and benefits to changing the current structure.

OCB administers Radio and Television (TV) Martí programs, and the Martínoticias. com website and its social media platforms from its headquarters in Miami, Florida to the people of Cuba. OCB also administers BBG’s shortwave transmitting station in Greenville, N.C.
Working with Cuban independent journalists and encouraging citizens to create user generated content on the island for OCB’s platforms continues to be a top priority. As Wi-Fi service has expanded in Cuba and with substantial numbers of Cubans now using Facebook and other social networking sites, OCB’s social media presence has increased.

FY 2018 and FY 2019 Initiatives

Providing High Quality Local Reporting on Topics Important to Cubans
OCB’S network of independent reporters in Cuba keeps growing, spurring the creation of more independent news media agencies on island and the launch of many emergent digital outlets. OCB will continue to secure more independent reporters, bloggers, photographers, and video journalists to increase the amount of content produced on island exclusively for OCB.

Utilizing Alternate Distribution on Methods to Reach the Island
In order to support the free flow of news and information to the island and to circumvent the blockage of TV Marti signals, OCB is dramatically increasing the distribution of DVD’s and USB drives with Marti content, radically altering its distribution strategy to avoid dealing with bulk amounts of content entrance into the island. The content is now downloaded once inside the island, copied on the island and distributed immediately. Previously, the information was downloaded elsewhere and carried onto the island. Much of it was intercepted at the border before reaching its intended audience. This optimization of OCB’s content supply chain will increase its availability on the island tenfold at the same cost level. TV Marti will continue to engage audiences on the internet using Facebook Live and YouTube as distribution channels into Cuba as the Communist regime has been wary of blocking these popular channels.

Strategy Based on Research
For the first time, a content/media preference poll was conducted in Cuba, allowing the Martís to better target audiences based on their interest and preferred distribution outlets. The Martís currently reach 11.1% of Cubans on a weekly basis with audio, video, and digital content delivered by radio, satellite TV, online, and on distinctly Cuban digital “packages” (paquetes). Martí’s radio and television products have the largest measured weekly audiences, respectively, reaching 8.0% and 6.8% of Cubans. Online Martí content has a nominally smaller audience reach (5.3%) than its TV products, and Martí on digital “packages” has a smaller weekly audience than radio or TV.
With radio still the dominant platform in reaching the Cuban population, Marti is increasing its presence on the island with the addition of three newer transmitters at its Greenville, NC station. The increase in the number of simultaneous frequencies makes it much harder for the Cuban communist regime to interfere with Marti broadcasts and deny the people of Cuba access to the information for which they thirst.
Regular users consider the content they get from Martí to be unique and 97% call it trustworthy. The topics covered by Martí that are considered the most important are news about Cuba, news about the U.S., and about U.S. policies toward Cuba. The vast majority (96%) say that Martí helps them form opinions about current events and most users both share information they get from Martí and would recommend it to others.
As part of OCB’s revitalization plan, more synergy has been created among the platforms reducing redundancy and creating more efficiency. Supported by the research data, the newsroom now has a more targeted and cost-effective strategy.

Dramatic Shift Within Digital to a Social Media 1st Strategy
Due to Marti’s web blockage on the island, OCB’s digital strategy has shifted into a social media consistent with the metrics that place YouTube, Google, and Facebook among the most visited sites in Cuba. With the use of AVRA technology, Radio Marti programs evolved into visual radio and streamed via Facebook Live along with the TV Marti programming. This provides OCB with an additional efficient and cost effective distribution outlet both for its radio (visual radio) and TV content.
In FY 2018, OCB is establishing on island digital teams to create non-branded local Facebook accounts to disseminate information. Native pages increase the chances of appearing on Cuban Facebook users newsfeeds. The same strategy will be replicated on other preferred social media networks.

Increased Collaboration with VOA Latin American Service
The Martís will continue to increase collaboration with VOA LatAm, resulting in financial benefits for the agency and eliminating coverage redundancy. Through their discrete and complementary missions, the Martis and VOA LatAm provide blanket coverage of key events in the Caribbean and Latin America by combining efforts.

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