Twitter Restricts Dozens of Accounts of Venezuelan Agencies and Politicians Fighting Coronavirus

Dozens of Venezuelan public agencies have reported in recent hours that their Twitter accounts were restricted, which has caused outrage at a time when the social networks of personalities and institutions are used to disseminate information to face the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic. The measures have affected the account of the country’s vice president, Delcy Rodríguez; the Vice Presidency of the Republic, the Central Bank of Venezuela, the Ministries of Education, Science, Housing, and Universities; the Bicentennial Bank, four governors and three media outlets. This occurs just 2 months after another massive block of accounts that Twitter carried out against Venezuelan institutions and sympathizers of Chavismo.


The accounts, for the most part, appear as “temporarily restricted.” According to Twitter , this occurs when it is presumed that you have breached the Twitter Rules . They claim that “they will be able to continue browsing Twitter,” but they will not be able to perform actions such as tweeting, retweeting, or using the Like function, “and only your followers will be able to see your previous Tweets.” In other cases, the account owner will see a message informing them that their account functions were limited for a specific period of time.
In some cases, the account holder is asked to verify their phone number through a text message or phone call, but the problems associated with sanctions against Venezuela sometimes prevent the call or the text message from reaching its destination.

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This is a list of the accounts that were restricted between March 16 and 19:

Authorities

  • @DrodriguezVen , account of the vice president of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez (still restricted).
  • @Gabrielasjr , official account of Gabriela Jiménez, Minister of Science and Technology (still restricted).
  • @OmarPrietoGob , account of the governor of the Zulia state, Omar Prieto (still restricted).
  • @RMarcoTorres , account of the governor of the Aragua state, Rodolfo Marco Torres (still restricted).
  • @MargaudPSUV , account of the governor of the Cojedes state, Margaud Godoy (still restricted).
  • @HectoRodriguez , account of the governor of the Miranda state, Héctor Rodríguez (recovered).
  • @tupamarohipolit , account of the Minister of Transport, Hipólito Abreu (still restricted).
  • @IMVillarroel , account of the Minister of Housing, Ildemaro Villarroel (still restricted).

Ministries

  • @MPPEDUCACION , official account of the Ministry of Popular Power for Education (still restricted).
  • @Mincyt_VE , official account of the PP Ministry for Science and Technology (still restricted).
  • @MppeuVE , official account of the PP Ministry for University Education (suspended).
  • @Minhvi_Oficial , official account of the PP Ministry for Housing and Habitat (still restricted).

Institutions

  • @ViceVenezuela , official account of the Vice President of Venezuela (still restricted).
  • @BCV_ORG_VE , official account of the Central Bank of Venezuela (already recovered).
  • @BcoBicentenario , official account of Banco Bicentenario (still restricted).
  • @INAC_Venezuela , account of the Venezuelan Civil Aviation Authority (still restricted).
  • @CNAC_Venezuela , official account of the National Autonomous Center for Cinematography (still restricted).
  • @SunacripVe , official account of the National Superintendence of Cryptoactive (still restricted).
  • @MVzlaBella , account of the Venezuela Bella Mission (recovered).
  • @OfficialCOV , account of the Venezuelan Olympic Committee (still restricted).

Ports

  • @Puerto_LaGuaira , official account of the port of La Guaira
  • @PuertoGuamache , official account of the international port of Guamache, Nueva Esparta state
  • @PuertoMCBO , official account of the port of Maracaibo, Zulia state
  • @PuertoEulaliaB , official account of the commercial port Eulalia Buroz, Anzoátegui state
  • @PuertoAraure , official account of the Dry Port “Battle of Araure”, Portuguese state.

All these accounts are managed by Bolivariana de Puertos SA (Bolipuertos)

Media

  • @MirafloresFmVe , account of the Radio Miraflores station (recovered).
  • @TodasAdentro , account of the printed weekly TodosAdentro of the Ministry of Popular Power for Culture (still restricted).
  • @DIARIOVEAHOY , official account of the private print newspaper Diario Vea (still restricted).

Journalists and people dedicated to communication

No information could be found about private media accounts, politicians, artists or journalists identified with the Venezuelan opposition whose accounts have been restricted.

Automated account lockout systems

Regarding possible causes, an entry published on March 16 on the company’s official blog Twitter reported that “they will increase the use of machine learning and automation systems to take a wide range of actions on potentially abusive and manipulative content”, which implies that they will use applications and software to automatically detect those accounts that are violating their rules.
On the other hand, they clarify that “although we work to ensure that our systems are consistent, sometimes they may lack the context that our teams bring, and this can cause us to make mistakes. As a result, we will not permanently suspend any account based solely on our automated compliance systems.”
In that article, Twitter also states that they are penalizing those accounts that issue tweets whose content goes against what health authorities recommend doing to protect themselves from the coronavirus.

“State-backed operations”

In another article published in June 2019 on their blog, the Twitter company explained that, as a result of the accusations made against them by American politicians and media about having allowed the alleged interference of foreign countries in the 2016 presidential elections , started an account closure campaign focused mainly on states or governments that are allegedly trying to manipulate their platform.
Twitter claims that it is concentrating on attacking what they call ” state-backed information operations,” that is, state-orchestrated information operations, that may occur on its platform. They claim that states or governments are behind these campaigns aimed at influencing the elections in other countries, and that there are people who take advantage of their institutional power and consciously “abuse” the Twitter service.
Twitter indicates in its blog that they are concentrating on those who carry out this type of activities:

  • Platform manipulation and spam
  • Coordinated activities
  • Creation of fake accounts
  • Attribute activities to others
  • Distribution of hacked materials
  • Block Evasion

It is possible that Twitter is penalizing accounts that engage in tag campaigns which although they are usual in said digital social network, the company could be frowning upon if they come from states or countries that the US establishment considers as its enemies.

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Long list of precedents

It is not the first time that important Twitter accounts linked to the Venezuelan government or Chavismo have been massively blocked, particularly during critical moments.

Source URL: Alba Ciudad

Translated by JRE/EF