Five popular anti-Putin parody accounts were suspended on Twitter since the beginning of the week, but now angered fans are creating speculation about the censorship. Tweets from the accounts were no longer visible, with a brief note explaining “This account has been suspended.”
The most popular Putin parody was DarthPutinKGB, which had more than 50,000 followers, The Next Web reports. Another account suspended by the social network was SovietSergey, famous for mocking Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Fans of the account, including Estonian president Toomas Hendrik Ilves, then accused the California-based company of responding to Russian government pressure.
The Putin parody censorship is a debate that is growing rapidly as Twitter deals with the backlash. The social media network also suspended an account which made fun of Russian Ambassador to the U.K. Alexander Yakovenko, one which made fun of the Russian Embassy and a parody of the country itself.
Fans applauded Twitter for reinstating SovietSergey, but DarthPutinKGB and others remain suspended. A Twitter spokesperson commented “We do not comment on individual accounts, for privacy and security reasons.” They pointed to their guidance on parodies, FOX News reported.
Radio Free Europe published a collection of the Putin parody’s “best tweets” in protest, which include: “Russia has cut defense spending. Attack spending remains unchanged,” “Leonardo DiCaprio isn’t good looking enough to play me,” and “Don’t believe anything the Kremlin doesn’t first deny.”
The person using the name Darth Putin has responded to the suspension on an anonymous blog, writing: “Suspended!!!!!! This is a Russophobic stab in the back by the accomplices of terrorists! I will be back. (insert swear word that won’t offend @support)!!” Fans of the feed swiftly launched the hashtag campaign #NoTwitterGulagForDarthPutinKGB in support.
People have speculated that fans of the Kremlin and “censorship-minded bot armies” repeatedly reported the parody accounts, causing Twitter to suspend them. In the past, Twitter and Facebook have removed posts critical of the Kremlin, raising concerns that the social network was censoring posts.
Twitter’s parody account conditions reveal the account’s biography “should indicate that the user is not affiliated with the account subject by stating a word such as ‘parody,’ ‘fake,’ ‘fan,’ or ‘commentary,’ and be done so in a way that would be understood by the intended audience.”
But that wasn’t the case for DarthPutinKGB, as the biography read: “146% of Russians didn’t elect me. You don’t visit Russia, I visit you. I serve tea to those that call this parody. Tweets made topless signed vvp.” The account had been active since 2013.
Radio Free Europe said that as the Putin parody censorship has creating a lot of scrutiny against Twitter, the person who ran the account, who would not reveal his name, said “They wanted the name changed from ‘Vladimir Putin’ to something else so no one could mistake me for the real thing.” The account holder also said the suspensions were worrying.