Twitter stats for Nicolás Maduro, president of Venezuela, showing a sudden drop-off and subsequent rise in followers due to a mass suspension and later reinstatement of Venezuelan Twitter accounts.
The other day, on my post about Rob Ford’s crack pipe, I received a comment from Peter (unfortunately, without a web link) concerning some big news in Venezuela about a certain very high-profile mass suspension of Twitter accounts. I was able to track the story down to Aporrea’s site today, and what a story it is:
Last Thursday, in an unprecedented move, Twitter suspended some 6,600 accounts belonging to followers of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, or functionaries or institutions of his government, including two communications media (the capital city newspaper, CiudadCCS, and the radio network, La Radio del Sur).
Among the blocked users were the minister of Communication and Information, Delcy Rodríguez (@drodriguezminci), the minster for the Office of the Presidency, Wilmer Barrientos (@patriaeficiente), the minister of Agriculture and Lands, Yvan Gil (@yvangil), the governor of the state of Anzoátegui, Aristóbulo Istúriz (@psuvaristobulo), as well as the official accounts of the ministries of University Education, Terrestrial Transport, Women, Corpomiranda, the Social Vice-Presidency, the Bolivarian University of Venezuela (UBV), the National Experimental University of Security (UNES), PDVAL, Mercal, and networks of Maduro partisans such as ForoCandanga, as well as numerous journalists, professionals and recognized individuals.
Some of the most important accounts, such as that of Minister Rodríguez, and those of CiudadCCS and La Radio del Sur, were restored on Saturday after the minister announced legal actions against the company. Other accounts had to wait until Monday, among them those of UBV, UNES and thousands of individual users.
The suspension occurred at a time of intense political debate in Venezuela, just five weeks before municipal elections, but also just days before extremists of the opposition were to announce the start of protests and a strike against the government. Problems of speculation and scarcity caused by private businesses, cobined with problems in the currency control system, have caused a sharp rise in inflation rates in Venezuela, reaching 38.7% in September 2013. The government has counteracted that with a 45% rise in the minimum wage over the previous year, and will announce measures against speculation and scarcity in the coming hours.
After having suspended some 6,600 Twitter accounts belonging to functionaries of the Bolivarian government, institutions of the state, social movements and sympathizers of Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, it appears that as of November 4, the majority of the accounts were restored. Twitter did not issue any public commentaries over the reasons for the suspension, but some of the users received an e-mail indicating that their accounts were blocked “by mistake” by an “automated system used for finding and eliminating spam accounts.”
Jorge Pineda, graphic designer and part of the web team for the CiudadCCS newspaper, whose account, @jorgejjpg was one of the 6,600 blocked last Friday, said that he had received an e-mail from someone called “gobeee”, who was part of Twitter’s technical support team. It read as follows:
Twitter uses automated systems to find and eliminate automated spam accounts. Unfortunately, it appears that your account was found to be one of them by mistake.
We have restored your account, we apologize for the inconvenience.
Please allow an hour or more for your follower count to return to normal.
Another user, Juan A. Carrizo, an information engineering student and resident of Bachaquero, Zulia, reported having received a similar note over the suspension of his account, @JACarrizo23RLD.
However, other Twitter users, such as Fernando Vera (@fernandoveragar), Freddy González (@freddyjo1992) and Alexis Zambrano (@ALEXPEZZZ) report not having received any such explanatory message or apology. Alexis Anteliz, a worker at the Ministry of Popular Power for Science, Technology and Innovation, also recuperated his account, @_Tauceti last Monday, and also reported not having received any message explaining the reasons for his suspension.
The account @Twitter_es made no reference to the denunciations in Venezuela over the massive suspension of Chavista accounts, but thanked anti-Castro Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez for her visit to their headquarters in its most recent tweet, on October 28. In the official Twitter blog, there is no reaction or response to the suspension of Venezuelan users, or to the denunciations of President Maduro or Minister Rodríguez.
The social network, property of the US corporation Twitter, has become an important mechanism for releasing news items in Venezuela. Frequently, the president, his ministers and other authorities release announcements by way of the social network, so that the state TV channel, Venezolana de Televisión (VTV) frequently interrupts programs in progress to reed tweets sent by the head of state. The network is also used to spread rumors and unfounded “news”, and it is habitual for government personages to have to debunk rumors on it. On October 21, the network was used to announce the supposed death of General Antonio López Ramírez, false information which was debunked a few hours later.
President Maduro announced last Saturday that his country would present a proposal before the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR) and the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) to create social networks of their own which would permit goverments and peoples of the region not to depend on networks like Twitter.
“We have to become independent, we have to think of profound and radical modalities to become independent of these transnational corporations which monopolize the social networks. Other countries in the world have done so already,” said the Venezuelan president that day. Addressing Manuel Fernández, minister of Science and Technology, Maduro announced: “I propose, comrade minister, that we go ahead and formulate a proposal with the experiences we have already had to do so officially in ALBA and UNASUR, and in MERCOSUR when we hold the December summit in Caracas. Let’s become independent of the technological bosses and the transnational corporations which are trying to manipulate and monopolize the social networks and the new forms of communication, and let us liberate them, so that they are truly free. Let the whole world communicate without being spied on, because they are using all these means for espionage.”
Translation mine. Linkage added.
This comes as Twitter has just gone on the stock market with its IPO. The P stands for Public, which is a laugh when you consider how they fucked over the Venezuelan public, particularly the organs of the government and public media.
And if anyone in the general public up here is thinking to get rich from tweeter stock, I’d firmly advise you to keep your wallet tucked away. Gawker has some interesting reading material on the subject, and it looks like the Twitter fuckery may extend to capitalists as well as socialists. Kind of ironic, that.
All the more reason for Madurito and colleagues to go ahead with a local anti-Twitter of their own…and if they’re taking any foreign joiners from the Great North, your humble pixel-stained wretch is eagerly looking forward to being one of them.