Under US Pressure, Social Media Companies Suspend Venezuelan, Iranian & Syrian Accounts

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by Ben Norton, Consortium News:

Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are censoring content that conflicts with Washington’s pro-war narrative, Ben Norton reports.

The Donald Trump administration is ramping up its information war against Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. And it has enlisted social media platforms as weapons in its assault on these top regime-change targets.

In the first two weeks of January, Twitter suspended dozens of accounts run by real, live people — not bots — in Venezuela, Iran, and Syria. Those erased from the website included heads of state, numerous state institutions, media outlets, and many average people who do not work for their governments.

The supreme leader of Iran, president of Syria, and leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly have all had their Twitter accounts temporarily suspended or restricted in recent days. Numerous alternative media outlets have suffered the same fate.

At the same time, Facebook, and its subsidiary Instagram, has announced that it will be censoring content that it deems to be supportive of Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in a U.S. act of war on Jan. 3.

The Big Tech giant said this censorship of users’ free speech will be done in order to comply with Washington’s suffocating sanctions on Iran.

This draconian crackdown on social media comes while the Trump administration is aggressively expanding its economic and diplomatic warfare against these independent countries, in hopes of ultimately overthrowing their sovereign governments.

The Grayzone spoke with some of the Venezuelan and Iranian civilian activists who do not work for their governments but who had their Twitter accounts suspended. They all said they were not given any warning, notice, or even an explanation why they were blocked from the platform.

As The Grayzone has previously reported, Big Tech corporations are closely linked to the U.S. government, and have increasingly acted as an extension of it, purging the accounts of officials from foreign governments that are targeted by Washington for regime change, also including China, Russia, CubaPalestine and beyond.

In early 2020, this social media warfare dramatically escalated.

Twitter Purges Venezuelan Accounts

Twitter has on numerous occasions suspended hundreds of accounts run by Venezuelans, in a series of purges targeting not only government-linked profiles but also those run by civilian activists from the leftist Chavista movement.

The social media giant has done this while simultaneously verifying and promoting the accounts of U.S.-backed opposition activists and coup-mongers, like Juan Guaidó and his rapidly fading shadow regime.

The Grayzone has previously reported on how Twitter relies on organizations funded by the U.S. government and European allies to crack down on foreign state media and suspend accounts that challenge Washington’s narratives.

On Jan. 7, the Big Tech corporation carried out yet another round of suspensions. When The Grayzone contacted with the company with a request for comment, it  did not give a clear reason.

In this latest purge, Twitter suspended the official accounts of Venezuela’s National GuardNavyAir ForceStrategic CommandPetroleum MinistryPenitentiary Services MinistryNational Commission of Information Technology, and Foundation Engineering Institute.

The office of the government of the Capital District, the office of the vice president of the economy, and the press office of the armed forces also had their accounts removed by Twitter.

Together, these blocked accounts had millions of followers.

The accounts of Venezuela’s Central Bank and Ministry of Economics and Finance were temporarily taken down, but later restored.

Venezuelan media outlets that challenge the right-wing narratives pushed by the major corporate media networks and Washington were also censored. Twitter suspended the accounts of the major radio station La Radio del Sur; the popular news website Red Radio Venezuela; and Ciudad CCS, the newspaper of the municipality of Caracas, the capital of the country.

Twitter has on numerous occasions suspended the accounts of Venezuela’s elected President Nicolás Maduro, although in response to widespread outrage it later brought them back.

But not all the Venezuelans who were deplatformed worked for state-backed institutions. Popular Chavista activists like Patricia Dorta, who had nearly 40,000 followers; and Yepfri Arguello had their accounts suspended, without explanation, in the Jan. 7 purge.

Individual government officials were targeted as well. Twitter suspended the accounts of Víctor Clark, the governor of the state of Falcón from the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV); Jesús Suárez Chourio, the former general commander of Venezuela’s military; and Hugbel Roa, an elected represented in the National Assembly also from PSUV.

Kenny Ossa, a prominent activist advocating for technology education and freedom of access to information who serves as the president of Venezuela’s National Center of Information Technology, had his account removed for the second time.

Twitter also suspended the profile of prominent Venezuelan activist Freddy Bernal, a leader in the Chavista movement who helps oversee the government’s CLAP food program, which provides some 7 million families receive large boxes of food for a few pennies. His account was however later restored.

In its series of purges, Twitter has almost without exception targeted Venezuelans from the leftist Chavista movement, which Washington has tried to crush since it first came to power in the 1998 election of President Hugo Chávez.

But in what appears to be a first, Twitter went after a major right-wing Venezuelan opposition politician in its Jan.  7 purge.

The social media corporation restricted the account of Venezuelan lawmaker Luis Parra days after he was elected president of the National Assembly. Unlike the others censored by Twitter, Parra is from Primero Justicia, a right-wing opposition party that is backed by the U.S. government.

The restriction of a right-wing Venezuelan opposition leader at exactly the moment when that figure was condemned by Washington is among the clearest indications of the US government’s influence over Twitter.

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