Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has denounced a “massive” Twitter attack against the Venezuelan government after thousands of accounts belonging to ministers and pro-government media and supporters were simultaneously suspended yesterday.
The list of accounts closed includes those of three government ministers, five ministries and official entities, a socialist party state governor and a variety of pro-government journalists, organisations and supporters.
The accounts of state media outlet the Radio of the South and pro-government newspaper Ciudad CCS have also been suspended. They had 107,000 and 153,000 followers respectively.
Maduro’s account remains open, however it lost around 6500 followers within a period of a few minutes yesterday evening, apparently coinciding with the closure of the twitter accounts of prominent government supporters.
Information Minister Delcy Rodriguez explained what happened on state channel VTV last night.
“Today, at 5.50pm, [Maduro’s twitter account] suffered an abrupt fall [in followers] that we couldn’t understand…what happened at that moment? The company Twitter decided to suspend over 10,000 accounts at the same time, among others of ministers and this public servant,” she said, referring to her own twitter account.
“[It was] a massive attack. It must be denounced as such. It wasn’t limited to this list…we make use of this tool to spread the truth about the [Bolivarian] revolution and our people,” the minister added.
Information Minister Rodriguez also said that the government had already lodged an official complaint with Twitter, explaining, “We’re going to go to the official mechanisms…because we demand an explanation. We’re also going to call the world for a movement that supports us so that they give us our accounts back…we’ll see each other [the government and Twitter] between lawyers”.
Meanwhile, Maduro accused Twitter of collaborating with opponents of the Bolivarian revolution to attack his government.
“We have discovered a massive attack by the company Twitter and the international right-wing against the accounts of Bolivarian patriots and Chavistas…from various countries in the world,” he said on national television last night.
The president argued that the alleged attack was due to that fact that he and the government use the social network as a means to inform the Venezuelan people, and claimed that the conservative opposition was “practising for something”.
“The Venezuelan opposition want to cause a set of events of great magnitude, a negative impact on the economy, society and peace of the country, so that the [municipal] elections of 8 December are suspended,” Maduro said.
So far today, no prominent opposition figure or journalist has publicly commented on the alleged online attack. Likewise, de facto opposition leader Henrique Capriles and pro-opposition journalists Nelson Bocaranda and Leopoldo Castillo have not mentioned the incident on their twitter accounts.
According to pro-government independent news website Aporrea.org no similar activity of a sudden loss of followers or closure of accounts has occurred to opposition figures on Twitter.
The opposition’s stance was attacked by pro-government lawmaker Pedro Carreño, who said, “Squalid [pro-opposition] journalists talk of freedom of expression and then see the censorship of [social] network accounts as normal”.
Pro-government figures also called upon supporters to double the number of Twitter followers lost and intensify organising efforts ahead of the 8 December municipal elections.
The Venezuelan government and supporters began using Twitter as a means of communicating their message in a big way when late President Hugo Chavez opened an account with the U.S. social networking site in April 2010. By his death in March this year Chavez had accumulated over 4 million followers, reportedly making him the second most followed head of state in the world after Barack Obama.