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2020

Anna Paulina Luna files FEC complaint against Twitter over missing verification badge

She claims Twitter is providing a thing of value to her opponent, but not to her.

Congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna filed an official complaint against Twitter Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission arguing Twitter is unfairly favoring her opponent.

Luna, a Republican, is running in Florida’s 13th Congressional District against incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist.

For months, Luna has been trying to get Twitter to verify her account, a process that affords high-profile users the famed checkmark badge indicating they are a person of some particular public prominence. Twitter has thus far still not verified Luna’s account despite her claim that she has met all of the social media platform’s requirements.

“When the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) was passed and amended, television was the dominant medium for federal campaigns, and rules were established by the Federal Election Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to ensure that candidates had equal access to this public forum,” Luna wrote in a complaint to the Federal Election Commission. “Twitter is a new public forum and when Twitter discriminates against conservative leaders like Anna Paulina Luna by applying its universal regulations in an arbitrary and subjective manner, it is not only un-American and morally wrong, it is also illegal.”

Luna claims Twitter “deliberately refused” to verify her account and by doing so, they denied her “something of value provided for free to her opponent.”

“Just as a radio or television station may not sell time only to a candidate’s opponent, Twitter may not do so either without providing equal access and opportunity to all candidates running for the same office,” the complaint claims.

“On December 12, 2019, Twitter announced that it would start verifying the accounts of all candidates running for Congress in the 2020 election cycle,” she wrote. “Under this plan, the responsibility is not supposed to be on the candidate to ask for verification, but rather Twitter will actively search for candidates to verify.”

The complaint claims Luna reached out to Twitter several times during the Republican primary noting she was the only Republican her race whose account had not been verified. Twitter reportedly responded first that she did not meet requirements established through a partnership with Ballotpedia to verify accounts and then subsequently with vague descriptions of the verification process, which Luna met, and no further explanation as to why her account still had not been verified.

In the final correspondence before the Aug. 18 primary, Twitter claimed it would expedite her claim. Following her primary victory, Luna’s campaign again contacted Twitter and received another vague response with no information about the status of her claim or why it was still pending.

Luna believes Twitter is blocking her from receiving the verification badge because it does not agree with her campaign platform.

When asked about the change in Twitter policy, Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said, according to the complaint, “a significant factor in expanding verification to these races was to ensure a level playing field.”

“However, Twitter has had significant issues in its verification process, from verifying fake candidates to at one point not verifying 90 percent off all gubernatorial candidates.,” Luna wrote.

The complaint argues Twitter is displaying a documented pattern of “shadow banning” conservative candidates and political office-holders.

“A report by Vice news alleged that Twitter was limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans in search results,” the complaint reads. It goes on to list affected officials including Republican Party Chair Ronna McDaniel and U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who has endorsed Luna.

“The @Twitter corporation is providing a free service to Charlie Crist that helps him promote his message and increases his fundraising while refusing to provide the same service to me.  That is illegal corporate support of a federal candidate.  See you in court @Twitter,” Luna tweeted Wednesday along with copies of her complaint.

 

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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