The sudden and mysterious elimination of some 6,600 followers from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s Twitter account was most likely due to the company’s routine purging of spam accounts, and not part of some shadowy right-wing conspiracy against Latin America’s left, according to a spokesman for the social media platform.
Twitter’s Andrew Fitzgerald says it is not his company’s policy to take punitive actions against account holders. Other than eliminating fake users, Twitter seldom interferes in individual accounts, he said.
“We as a company take action on accounts very rarely and not in any sort of act of retribution,” Fitzgerald told The Nicaragua Dispatch.
Fitzgerald says Twitter tries its best to eliminate spam accounts to prevent them from cluttering up the network. When fake accounts are deleted en masse, high profile accounts will often notice a slight fluctuation in their followership.
“Fluctuations in follower counts happen all the time, especially on high profile accounts, which attract spam followers,” Fitzgerald says. “High profile accounts seem to fluctuate by high numbers and that has to do with us eliminating spam accounts.”
Maduro, however, seems unconvinced that his slowly growing popularity on Twitter was inflated by fake accounts. The president claims that several of his cabinet members also had their accounts deleted.
Maduro, who has been criticized for wasting too much time on Twitter, has managed to attract only one-third as many followers as his deceased predecessor, Hugo Chávez. But that’s certainly not from lack of effort; Maduro has tweeted nearly 1,000 times more than Chávez did, and has even started to translate his tweets into English.
Despite Maduro’s obsession with Twitter, it’s a bit of a guilty pleasure. The Venezuelan president says he doesn’t trust the “multinational corporations that have monopolized social networks” and has proposed the creation of an alternative “Bolivarian” version of Twitter so that Latin America’s left can “free ourselves” from the grips of traditional social media.
Maduro, who has spent most of his turbulent presidency mumbling about alleged coup plots and imagined assassination attempts, now believes Twitter is part of right-wing international plot to destabilize his government. After announcing the elimination of followers from his Twitter account last weekend, Maduro started tweeting using the hashtag #NoAlGolpeFascistaDeTwitter, or “No to the Fascist Coup by Twitter.” But since then, Maduro’s attention has shifted away from the alleged Twitter Coup as he now sets his sights on defending Venezuela against the right-wing economic war being waged against his government, which can be followed in detail on his Twitter account under the hashtag #PatriaUnidaContraLaGuerraEconomica.
Twitter, meanwhile, says they’re just happy to see Maduro using hashtags, even if they are a little too lengthy to be truly effective.
“He’s using best practices, which I am enthusiastic about,” Twitter’s Fitzgerald joked.