ST. PETERSBURG — Congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna just took her feud with Twitter to the next level.
Her campaign said Wednesday that it has filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the social media giant over the company’s refusal to “verify” her account.
The commission said it could not confirm receipt of the complaint. It’s the second time during the campaign that Luna has publicly feuded with Twitter over its verification policy; in September, the Republican threatened to sue the company.
The complaint, which the campaign sent to the news media, says Twitter broke campaign finance rules by withholding the elusive blue check mark that accompanies verification from her Twitter profile while giving it to her Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist. That amounts to a contribution to Crist, the complaint argues, even though corporations are barred from contributing to political candidates.
The complaint also argues Twitter violated the Federal Communications Commission’s “equal time rule" by verifying Crist but not Luna.
Luna’s campaign asks the election commission to force Twitter to verify her account and sanction the company.
It’s unlikely the complaint will lead to any action before the election. The Federal Election Commission seats six commissioners, but right now only has three. Four is the minimum for quorum, according to a spokesman. The U.S. Senate must confirm more commissioners before the body can resume investigating and ruling on cases.
A spokesman said Twitter would not comment on Luna’s complaint.
Twitter verification signifies the company has authenticated profiles of companies and public figures. Some believe being verified boosts credibility and exposure. In February, the company announced it would verify candidates running for the U.S. House, Senate and for governor “who have qualified for the general election ballot" so long as they met certain requirements, including having a profile and header photo on their account, a biography and a website that identifies them as a candidate. They must also comply with Twitter rules.
Luna said she has done all that and still did not receive a blue check mark, even after winning the Republican primary. Twitter has twice taken temporary action against Luna’s account for violating its terms of service. Luna’s campaign spokesman said both instances amounted to censorship.
Luna’s complaint is rooted in the idea that Twitter verification amounts to a campaign contribution. Her campaign lawyers argued that since Twitter charges a fixed amount to promote a tweet, and since verified accounts have more engagement, the blue check mark has monetary value.
The campaign also argued that Twitter violated the equal time rule, which requires that broadcasters give all candidates equal access to airtime.
Tallahassee election attorney Ron Meyer said the election commission has taken a “hands off” approach with internet-based platforms: “To compare the requirements for Twitter postings to the requirements for broadcast television or radio is just an invalid comparison."
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