Social networks clamp down on Colombian FARC dissident accounts


FILE PHOTO: Ivan Marquez of the political party of FARC is seen after a news conference in Bogota, Colombia April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Jaime Saldarriaga/File Photo

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Twitter has suspended accounts linked to FARC dissidents after Colombian police complained that they were being used to encourage violence, and Facebook said it has also removed related content from its platform.

The Twitter accounts for @IvanMarquezFarc, belonging to former FARC leader Ivan Marquez, and @SMarquetalia, which is controlled by FARC dissidents who rejected a 2016 peace deal, now read "Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter rules."

The account @JSantrich_FARC, belonging to former FARC leader Jesus Santrich, has also been suspended.

Twitter was not immediately available to comment.

Facebook has recently removed content related to FARC dissidents as identified by its moderators, it told Reuters via WhatsApp.

"We will continue to take action in accordance with our community standards and dangerous organization policies," a spokeswoman said.

The move comes amid a wider crackdown on social media accounts that have been accused of inciting violence. Twitter and Facebook permanently locked the account of U.S. President Donald Trump last week, citing the risk of further violence following the storming of the Capitol by his supporters.

Critics say removing such accounts tramples on free speech rights and gives too much power to U.S. tech executives.

Colombia's national police director General Jorge Luis Vargas this week requested that social media firms block the FARC dissident accounts after a video was published of Marquez speaking alongside others armed with rifles as he criticized the government.

"They're armed, they're issuing messages calling for international terrorism. That's why we have asked that they be blocked, in accordance with international law," Vargas told journalists.

In 2019, Marquez and Santrich - former commanders of the demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) - appeared in a YouTube video announcing a new offensive, just three years after signing a peace deal with the government.

The 2016 peace deal ended the FARC's role in a more than five-decade conflict which has left 260,000 dead and millions displaced. Although the deal allowed around 13,000 former FARC members to demobilize, some leaders and combatants have abandoned it and taken up arms again.

Some 2,500 combatants make up FARC dissident groups, which are involved in drug trafficking and illegal mining, according to the government and the military.

FARC dissidents, as well as other armed groups such as the National Liberation Army (ELN), regularly use social media networks to publish messages.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

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