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Crist Challenger Sues FEC for Failing to Address Twitter Concerns

May 10, 2021 by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON – Former Republican Congressional candidate Anna Paulina Luna, who ran unsuccessfully to unseat Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., last year, is suing the Federal Elections Commission saying it failed to address her concerns over her treatment by Twitter.

Luna, a former airfield manager in the U.S. Air Force and a one-time model, bested a field of four in 2020 to become the GOP’s nominee to represent U.S. House Florida District 13.

She then squared off against incumbent Democrat Charlie Crist, who beat her 53% to 47%.

In a complaint filed in the federal court in Washington, D.C., Luna claims she began asking for “verified” status of her Twitter account shortly after she became a candidate for the congressional seat in the fall of 2019, and that she and members of her campaign staff continued to communicate with the social media giant for months afterward.

However, despite obviously qualifying for “verified” status, and being in almost constant contact with Twitter, the company did nothing about her request, Luna said. In the meantime Twitter did verify opposing candidates’ accounts.

Luna claims because Twitter favored other candidates, giving them verified status on its platform, but denied her the same treatment, it violated the Federal Election Campaign Act.

This isn’t the first time Luna has been involved in a controversy involving Twitter, which, she says, consistently engaged in “content based discrimination against conservatives like herself.

“For example, Twitter temporarily locked [her] out of her account because she criticized socialism while dressed in an American military styled uniform.”

“She was also temporarily suspended from Twitter when she tweeted, “I am Hispanic, I am a NRA member, I am a veteran. I will not bend the knee to the socialist agenda to ban firearms, I took an oath to defend the people of this nation as well as the constitution.”

In her complaint, she sought to explain why the current situation she finds herself in with the social media company is, if anything, worse than what she says she has experienced in the past.

“A blue checkmark next to the account name conveys credibility and signifies it has been verified and is an account of public interest,” the complaint said.

“Verified accounts received significant boosts in engagement, including a 38% increased engagement on tweets with photos, a 16% boost on tweets with hashtags, and a 28% boost on tweets with videos,” it continues.

Further, the complaint said, “content posted from a verified Twitter account has a demonstrably

higher monetary value than content posted from un-verified accounts. Verified accounts automatically jump to the top of search results,” the complaint said.

Luna then notes that in 2018, Twitter introduced an “Election Labels” feature that contains relevant information about a political candidate, including the office

the candidate is running for, the state in which the office is located, and district

number (where applicable), and is clearly identifiable with a small icon of a

government building.”

She states that in 2018, approximately 100 million times each day, and 13% of election conversation on Twitter in the United States included a tweet from an Election Labeled account. 

“Verified Election Labeled accounts jump to the top of search results, result in higher engagement with other users, and account for a large portion of election related social media activity on Twitter. By selectively providing verification benefits to certain candidate accounts, Twitter has provided a valuable corporate funded benefit to those candidates, which is prohibited

under FECA,” the complaint said.

Unable to get satisfaction from Twitter, Luna filed an administrative complaint with the Federal Elections Commission on Oct. 22, 2020. Now, she says the agency failed to take action during the mandatory 120-day response period and is asking the court to order it to do so now.

Litigation

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