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1 Feb, 2019 12:15

Twitter takes down hundreds of accounts linked to Venezuela amid US calls for regime change

Twitter takes down hundreds of accounts linked to Venezuela amid US calls for regime change

Twitter has announced that it took down about 2,000 accounts in Venezuela, most of which it claimed were “engaged in a state-backed influence campaign.” This comes amid accusations of a US-led coup attempt.

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.”

Independent journalist Ben Norton accused social media corporations of acting as an “extension of US government interests.”

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.

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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