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Ecuador: Why are critics being shutdown on Twitter?

A Spanish company -- Ares Rights -- has been targeting the social media accounts of critics of the Ecuadorean government

21 Nov 2014
BY VICKY BAKER

Diana Amores’ Twitter account is currently suspended (@Diana_Amores). Is she a troll? Is she sending offensive pictures? No, she’s a translator based in Quito, Ecuador, with a tendency to post sarcastic comments about politics.

Diana is being targeted by Ares Rights, an internet reputation management company based in Barcelona. The trouble started earlier this year when she was being critical about the Ecuadorean government. Ares Rights filed complaints, claiming copyright violations and shut her down.

Why is a Spanish company concerned about what is being said about the Ecuadorean government? If you look at the individual complaints (and we have), Ares Rights has filed them on behalf of, variously, Ecuador’s governing party, Movimiento Alianza País; EcuadorTV (the state-run television station;) and even the president, Rafael Correa. The company has had various Twitter accounts suspended and documentaries pulled from YouTube. They have also targeted Buzzfeed and Chilling Effects, who wrote about Ares Rights specifically.

Is this an attempt by the state to silence critics? You can read the full, in-depth story here, from the last issue of Index on Censorship Magazine.

Diana’s latest Twitter suspension is on account of reports of “violent threats”. This is one of her alleged violent threats (translated from Spanish): “Today I received a notification of censorship from @Twitter and @Aresrights.” She included a screengrab of an email she received from Twitter saying AresRights had raised a copyright complaint. Again, it claimed to be filing this on behalf of Movimiento Alianza País (Correa’s party). This doesn’t prove they are contracted, but neither party have responded to Index’s call for clarification for our recent feature.

On Wednesday, there was an opposition march in Quito. Diana wanted to tweet from it. She couldn’t.

At the march, protesters held up a message to the government: “We are not afraid anymore”. President Correa has been accused of trying to intimidate critics. He has successfully pursued several libel lawsuits against the media since introducing his controversial communications law in 2013.

One of the early targets was a political cartoonist, Bonil. His newspaper, El Universo, was fined $92,000 over one of his cartoons. Now, 11 months on, Bonil is currently responding to a new complaint and fearing an even bigger fine.

You can read Bonil’s story – with a new cartoon by him highlighting the censorship of cartoonists – in the next issue of Index on Censorship magazine.

This article was published on 21 November 2014 at indexoncensorship.org

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