The Spanish conservative party Vox saw the suspension of its social media account for having simply denounced the over-representation of individuals of North African origin in the majority of crimes committed in Catalonia.
It is a hashtag that was blocked by the moderators of Twitter, and which was at the origin of the suspension of the account of the third largest political force in Spain. RT France reported that #Stopislamizacion was the keyword that prompted the social network to suspend Vox postings for three weeks, as of January 28, 2021.
Twitter has been increasing account suspensions for a few weeks, including those of Donald Trump and the conservative Boulevard Voltaire site. The social network explained the suspension of the account of the Vox party by declaring that the latter had made speeches “inciting hatred”. The tweet in question affirmed that the majority of crimes and offenses committed in Catalonia were the work of individuals from the Maghreb, and concluded with #Stopislamizacion, to stop immigration.
In February last year, Vox filed a criminal complaint in a Spanish court against Twitter, because the social media company had violated its basic rights by blocking it from tweeting.
Twitter had disabled the tweet function on Vox’s official account in Spain because of a reference to a gender equality program for schoolchildren – the account sent out a post accusing the governing Socialists of using public money to encourage paedophilia.
“The attitude of Twitter is violating basic rights such as freedom of expression, the right to political participation, ideological freedom and the principle of political pluralism and equality,” the party noted in a statement at the time.
Vox also disputed Twitter’s characterization of its tweet as “hate speech”. Notably, the United States has no laws prohibiting “hate speech” and courts have ruled repeatedly that “hate speech” is free speech. US Supreme Court justices made clear in 2019 that speech that some view as offensive is protected not just against outright prohibition but also against lesser restrictions, The Washington Post reported.
The “privately-owned” US tech giants appear to be restricting lawful, First Amendment-protected speech globally in direct violation of their own country’s constitution.
Spain has once again become the main gateway for illegal migrants, with the Canary Islands seeing some 41 000 arrivals by land and sea last year, compared with 34 100 in Italy and 15 500 in Greece, according to figures released recently by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
On the Canary Islands, Moroccan migrants suspected of crimes have been confronted by organized groups of local residents, according to Spanish daily El Pais.
The islands, located off the northwestern coast of North Africa, have been unable to deal with the influx with protests erupting regularly in front of various migrant reception centres. Local residents speak of an “invasion” and in several parts of the island, citizens said they would take justice into their own hands.
“Experts, civil society groups and the police are convinced that the tension will only intensify,” reported El Pais. But the smuggler’s boats are still arriving. Thousands of people are now being concentrated in just three municipalities on the islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife and Fuerteventura.
With anti-immigration sentiment rising, Spain wants the European Union to offer countries in North Africa, Western Africa and the Sahel funding to deal with the crisis. The more than 20 000 migrant landings in the Canaries in 2020 illustrate “the constant pressure on the Spanish borders of the EU,” Spanish Foreign Ministry stated in a letter to the European Commission.
After having received funding, Morocco had cracked down on departures in 2019 and arrivals were halved. But in 2020, the Canaries route was reactivated.
Exasperated by the suspension of his party’s Twitter account, the president of Vox, Santiago Abascal denounced “this very serious fact, because Twitter usurps the functions of democratic states, limiting fundamental rights”. Considering that Twitter attacked “freedom and democracy by censoring the public representatives of millions of Spaniards,” Abascal decided to file a complaint “against this totalitarian action which aims to influence the next Catalan elections”. The Vox party has 52 deputies out of 350 in the Spanish parliament.
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