The San Francisco-based social media giant released a blog post on Thursday saying that it removed 1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which it deemed to “appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences.” It also removed another 764 accounts, however, noted: “We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country.”
The Twitter purge of accounts was met with criticism and accusations of censorship.
Host of the Empire Files, a documentary & interview series, Abby Martin lamented that amid Twitter censorship of pro-government supporters, “pro-coup Venezuelans & right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere.”
While pro-coup Venezuelans & right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere, tech companies are actively censoring pro-government accounts they say are working to "influence" people https://t.co/AEfKmHhl1w— Abby Martin (@AbbyMartin) January 31, 2019
Independent journalist Ben Norton accused social media corporations of acting as an “extension of US government interests.”
Twitter is now removing thousands of accounts supposedly linked to Venezuela's sovereign government.— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 31, 2019
This comes after Twitter suspended Venezuelan government accounts 1.5 years ago.
Social media corporations act as an extension of US government interestshttps://t.co/AVoF3vNAIa
Amazing how one dataset is Venezuela, just days after US set a coup into motion against its government. As usual, the caveat is buried: “We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country.” https://t.co/8Krx9E1YDu— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) January 31, 2019
The Twitter purge comes more than a week after US President Donald Trump recognized Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president in a provocative move against the elected government of Nicolas Maduro. Guaido, who is the president of the National Assembly, swore an oath standing on the streets of Caracas and declared himself interim president on January 23.
Here's a small sample of the hate I've received over the last week for my reporting on the Venezuela coup. But Twitter is shutting down accounts it has *no proof* are connected to the Venezuelan government. https://t.co/wLdDPf1VHXpic.twitter.com/WYgc32pwVo— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) February 1, 2019
A vocal supporter of regime change in the Latin American country Florida senator Marco Rubio seemed to welcome the news of the Twitter purge on his own account on Thursday.
It’s not the first time social media has cracked down on Venezuela based accounts. In September Twitter suspended the official account of the Venezuelan government’s press team, reportedly without giving any explanation. Earlier, Telesur English, a multi-state-funded Latin American news network based in Venezuela, was targeted by Facebook.
Along with the take down of Venezuela-linked accounts, Twitter removed ones linked to Iran, Russia and Bangladesh for what it deemed “malicious” activity. Simultaneously Facebook announced a purge on “inauthentic behavior” tied to Iran. It deleted multiple pages, groups and accounts which “repurposed Iranian state media’s reporting on topics like Israel-Palestine relations and the conflicts in Syria and Yemen, including the role of the US, Saudi Arabia, and Russia.”
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