Congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna, who last month secured the Republican nomination to take on U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist in November, is threatening to sue Twitter because it hasn’t verified her account.
She says the social media company is censoring her voice. But it’s not the first time Luna has faced off with Twitter.
Twice the technology company has taken action against her account for violating its terms of service. Luna, a conservative and Hispanic social media personality, has a history of provocative statements that have landed her in hot water. She once compared Hillary Clinton to herpes during a Fox News interview, prompting the host to apologize to viewers.
Her campaign spokesman, James Blair, acknowledged those past Twitter violations are probably why the technology company hasn’t granted her verification. Blair characterized both instances as “ridiculous” and “censorship,” and said if they are why Twitter won’t verify Luna, it’s a “chicken or an egg problem.”
Luna has 195,000 followers on Twitter. Yet the blue check mark next to her name that signifies verification has eluded her.
“Ultimately I do feel that this is political prejudice,” she told the Tampa Bay Times on Wednesday.
Verification indicates to other Twitter users that a profile is in the public interest and authentic, which can lead to more followers and a higher social media profile. In February, Twitter’s Public Policy Director Bridget Coyne wrote in a blog post that the company would verify “candidates running for U.S. House of Representatives, US Senate, or Governor in the 2020 US election who have qualified for the general election ballot.”
Luna’s campaign provided emails showing she has been trying to become verified since February. In response to her inquiries, Twitter has replied with a form email saying that to become verified, candidates must meet the threshold set by Ballotpedia, a nonprofit online encyclopedia of American politics and elections. They must also meet certain profile requirements like having a profile and header photo, a biography, a website that identifies them as a candidate, and they must comply with Twitter rules.
Luna says she’s done all that, and her campaign for Florida’s 13th Congressional District reached out again after she won the August primary.
Primary election opponents Amanda Makki and George Buck were both verified by Twitter. Both of Crist’s accounts, his official account and his campaign account, are also verified.
“I do believe that they’re doing it because they don’t want someone like myself to have a voice or a platform,” said Luna, an Air Force veteran.
Twitter declined to comment. But in a March 6 email to Luna, a screenshot of which Luna tweeted out, Twitter wrote “If a Twitter account engages in, or has engaged in, activity that violates the Twitter Rules, it may be ineligible for verification or subject to enforcement action.”
The first time Luna drew the ire of Twiter, according to her campaign, was in August 2019, in the wake of a mass shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart by a man who authorities say targeted Latinos.
According to a screenshot shared with the Tampa Bay Times by Luna’s campaign, Luna tweeted: “I am Hispanic. I am a NRA MEMBER. I am a veteran. I will not bend the knee to the socialist agenda to ban firearms. I took an oath to defend the people of this nation as well as the constitution. Stop making El Paso political.”
Luna, who was not yet a candidate, said her account was shut down for 13 hours and she was forced to delete the tweet before she could regain access. Blair, her campaign spokesman, said Twitter locked her out for violating the company’s guidelines pertaining to posting material dangerous to the community.
“There’s no world where it can be construed where it would violate terms of service or was somehow a threat to the community,” Blair said Thursday.
The second time, the campaign said, was after March 12, when Venezuelan politician and diplomat Diego Arria, a critic of Venezuelan socialism and former president of the United Nations Security Council, tweeted a photo of Luna modeling in fatigues and with guns as part of a photo shoot for Ballistic magazine. Luna retweeted Arria.
The photo was labeled “potentially sensitive content” and Luna said her account was flagged as spam. She had to log back in, going through a series of prompts to confirm it was her.
“That’s an absurdity to us, that is censorship,” Blair said. “Both times, it’s ridiculous, completely ridiculous.”
Twitter would not confirm if those particular tweets were the ones that landed Luna in trouble.
Blair said “the two instances that she’s quote unquote gotten in trouble for are clear suppression of free speech.”
“They want to suppress minority, conservative, millennial voices whose political views don’t align with Twitter’s,” he said. “It’s just ridiculous. What can you call it, other than censorship?”
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