Facebook’s ‘verified account’ tick used to interfere in Venezuela – Russian parliament speaker

Facebook’s ‘verified account’ tick used to interfere in Venezuela – Russian parliament speaker
The head of the Russian State Duma has blasted US tech giant Facebook for giving the Venezuelan opposition leader’s accounts a blue verification badge while denying it to its elected president.

“It’s quite surprising when such big social networks, which claim to be independent, act in this way, playing to the tune of Washington,” Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Lower Chamber in the Russian Parliament, told journalists on Thursday. He added that Facebook was serving as a tool of US foreign policy.

The scolding remark refers to Facebook’s policies on awarding ‘verified’ status to accounts, which made headlines amid turmoil in Venezuela. The leader of the opposition-dominated National Assembly, Juan Guaido, proclaimed himself the acting president in defiance of President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in for his second term earlier this month. Guaido is backed by Washington, and the US has been calling for a regime change in Venezuela for a long time.

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As the stand-off in Venezuela unfolds, Facebook was criticized on social media for taking away ‘blue ticks’ from Maduro accounts on its platforms – Facebook and Instagram – while keeping them for Guaido.

Facebook said the ‘unverification’ claim is not accurate. It did not take away the blue badge form Maduro’s accounts as they were never verified in the first place, the tech giant explained in response to online outrage. Guaido got the blue tick on Instagram in November last year and recently on Facebook.

The blue mark on social media networks was initially intended to verify accounts run by public persons, so that other users can distinguish them from satirical accounts and impersonators. But lately it has been increasingly used as a badge of trustworthiness or even as an endorsement of the person’s political stance.

Twitter famously stripped the badge from several right-wing speakers in 2017 after being accused of elevating their status with it.

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Facebook sparked controversy in Russia in 2017 after deleting the accounts of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The move was justified by him being on US sanctions list, but many commenters argued that the company was violating freedom of speech with its decision.

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