World

No More Pokes? Chávez Seeks to Censor Facebook, Twitter

Hugo Chávez is tired of your pokes, tweets and comments. If he has his way, a bill making its way through Parliament that includes restrictions on social media giants, will become law.

The bill would censor certain websites if they are found to be spreading information that would incite violence against Chávez.

The legislation would add provisions to existing laws that already restrict radio and television. The use of Facebook and Twitter to spread "media manipulation" would be prohibited.

Juan Jose Molina, a lawmaker with opposition party Podemos, took to his Twitter account to express his displeasure with the bill. In tweets on Friday, he said that the legislation would prohibit people from using Twitter and Facebook to send disrespectful messages about public figures. He added that the restrictions would include text messages, photos and audio recordings.

Chávez is not exactly a media darling in Venezuela. He has taken away the licenses of dozens of radio stations and has a long-running feud with Globovisión television -- actions that have been roundly criticized by media freedoms groups.

Last week, the Venezuelan government acquired a minority stake in Globovisión, Venezuela's only remaining opposition-aligned television station, the AP reported.

The government now controls 20 percent of Globovisión's shares — assets absorbed in the June takeover of Banco Federal — and has the right to name a Globovisión board member, the state-run AVN news agency reported.

The wording of the bill that would censor social networks calls for protecting citizens "moral and ethical honor". As such, it would also control adult programming. It proposes applying limits on content in "electronic media" according to the time of day and would call on internet service providers to establish mechanisms to restrict nefarious adult content.

The bill comes at a time of turmoil for Venezuelan legislators as Chávez is once again seeking decree powers that would grant him special powers to enact laws as he sees fit.

Chávez said he needs an "enabling law" for the fourth time in his presidency to pass emergency laws quickly in a range of areas, including housing, land use and banking, the AP reported.

Chávez's request comes shortly before the Jan. 5 installation of a new National Assembly in which a bigger opposition presence will prevent him from obtaining the two-thirds majority he would need to obtain such decree powers.

In his nearly 12 years in office, the leftist leader has been granted temporary decree powers three times by lawmakers — in 1999, 2001 and 2007.

If he gets them again this time, opposition status messages and tweets may just go silent.

For a complete take in Spanish click here.

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