Leopoldo López, one of the opposition leaders in Venezuela, recently expressed his surprise that Donald Trump has been removed from Twitter even when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is still allowed access. He added that other dictators around the world also maintain Twitter accounts.
“I was shocked that the dictator of my country, who’s a murderer, who has been [tried] in the U.N. for committing crimes against humanity, him and all of the violators of human rights, people who have committed murder, people who have taken our country to great levels of despair, hunger, and has created a flight of millions of people out of our country, they have their Twitter accounts,” Lopez said in an interview with PBS.
In January this year, Twitter banned the account of the then President Donald Trump. The decision was taken in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, with Trump being blamed for having incited it. Even after impeachment proceedings against Trump failed to find him responsible for having triggered the attack, he continues to be banned on Twitter.
López’s remarks on Twitter’s double standards come as Trump filed a civil lawsuit against the company in Florida on Oct. 1. Trump and other plaintiffs argue that the Twitter ban violated the former president’s First Amendment rights and potentially the Stop Social Media Censorship Act passed in Florida.
The case, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleges that Twitter was “coerced” by certain members of Congress to take action against Trump.
In the filing, Trump’s lawyers point out that Twitter exercises a certain degree of power and control over political discourse in the country that is “immeasurable, historically unprecedented, and profoundly dangerous to open democratic debate.” The filing states that if Trump’s account is not reinstated, the ban will affect the outcome of the 2022 election.
Trump will not only lose out on his communication channel with the public but also potentially on donors and merchandising options. Prior to getting banned, Trump had garnered 88 million followers on Twitter. The lawsuit also calls out the “ludicrous incongruity” of Twitter for banning Trump from the platform alleging that he incited violence while allowing the Taliban, a terrorist organization, to freely share their messages via the network.
“On August 8, 2021, a new account named for the Taliban unrecognized state, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the ‘Taliban’), a known terrorist organization, appeared on Twitter. Over the weeks that followed, Twitter allowed the Taliban to tweet regularly about their military conquests and victories across Afghanistan. The Taliban’s Twitter account is active to this day,” the lawsuit states.
The political censorship imposed by Twitter has made several states consider introducing laws to restrict such actions. In May, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law bill SB 7072 which allows citizens of the state to take legal action against a social media platform if they are censored in a biased manner.
The bill also prohibited platforms from banning political candidates, failing which, fines would be imposed. But in June, a District Judge granted a temporary injunction that prevented the law from coming into effect. In September, a coalition of 10 states led by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief in support of the Florida law.
“I will defend the First Amendment and ensure that conservative voices have the right to be heard. Big Tech does not have the authority to police the expressions of people whose political viewpoint they simply disagree with,” Paxton said in a statement.