Twitter blocks 180 accounts of Venezuela government; Maduro stays defiant

CARACAS – Twitter has suspended 180 accounts linked to the Venezuelan government, including radio and TV outlets in the presidential palace, accusing it of censoring the U.S. micro-blogging website as part of its bid to silence dissent.

While it’s not clear what prompted the move, officials are furious – President Maduro claims that Twitter blocked accounts “simply for being Chavistas,” or supporters of his late predecessor Hugo Chavez.

Chavez was a pioneer among politicians in the use of Twitter, gathering millions of followers and frequently announcing news on the platform. Even today, Chavez’s 4 million followers beat Maduro’s 3 million.

The socialist president isn’t calling for a boycott of Twitter, though. The “battle on social media” is too important, he says.

Venezuela would respond by opening “10,000 or more” accounts in response, Mr. Maduro insists.

He also called on his followers to publish pictures of Twitter’s head in Venezuela. “Let the people know who is responsible for this manipulation,” he said.

It is not clear if Twitter has any employees in Venezuela. The company has so far made no response.

Neither is it clear why the accounts were suspended, or how many have been affected.

Twitter guidelines say accounts can be suspended for tweeting abuse, spam or threatening security.