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Twitter suspends account of Ecuadorian organisation

(Fundamedios/IFEX) - At a press conference held this morning, 26 February 2013, in Quito, the Executive Director of Fundamedios, César Ricaurte, presented a statement regarding the inexplicable and arbitrary suspension of the organization's official account on Twitter, @FUNDAMEDIOS.

A few minutes after the press conference, the account was reinstated. Twitter did not provide any explanation of the reasons why it was suspended in the first place, or the criteria to reinstate it later. In this regard, Fundamedios reaffirms its concern about the arbitrary measures that Twitter might be taking when suspending accounts, which may have a negative impact on the exercise of the right to freedom of expression of thousands of users. Therefore, it is most necessary that the social network provides a clear and precise explanation on the reasons why this account was suspended.

The statement presented this morning by the Executive Director read as follows:

As the public may already know, on the night of February 20, 2013 the official account of Fundamedios on Twitter was suspended without any explanation or warning. After several inquiries sent to the social network's help center, the only communication received read: "Hello! Your account has been suspended due to a violation of the rules of Twitter. A few examples of such violations may include abusive behavior, identity theft, trademark violations and copyright violations."

The reasons provided by Twitter are generic and broad, which may lead to arbitrary suspensions of accounts, such as the one recently suffered by Fundamedios. No further or specific explanation on the measure was provided, even though several inquiries were sent to Twitter's Help Center. The single response we obtained on this matter was the automatically generated message described above.

Fundamedios' Twitter account has been operational since April 24, 2009, and to this day we have 14.321 followers to whom we provide daily information regarding threats and attacks on freedom of the press and expression. We have thoroughly complied with Twitter's terms of use, even under circumstances where the organization has received threats, attacks and insults through tweets and direct messages. Under such circumstances, we have always chosen to avoid confrontation and conflict.

Depriving a non-profit human rights organization of one of its main tools of promotion and information may constitute a grave attack on its freedom of expression. This case could reveal the existence of irresponsible and arbitrary practices undertaken by large corporations that dominate the Internet nowadays.

This is not a minor concern. Twitter is in fact one of the largest social networks through which millions of persons share thoughts, ideas and information. Arbitrary decisions taken by Twitter, sometimes coinciding with those adopted by certain authoritarian regimes and the lack of an adequate response to users' inquiries, may undermine the right to freedom of expression and curtail the tasks of protection and promotion carried out by human rights activists.

For the reasons above stated, we demand that Twitter provides a swift and clear explanation of the measures adopted to suspend the account @FUNDAMEDIOS, and to reinstate it as soon as possible.

This is not an isolated event; in the past few days several Twitter accounts have been suspended without any explanation whatsoever. Therefore, it is most necessary that Twitter clearly explains its stance on the right to freedom of expression and human rights protection within its network.

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