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The president reads from a LinkedIn resume of a senior Twitter executive during last Wednesday's press conference. The president reads from a LinkedIn resume of a senior Twitter executive during last Wednesday's press conference.

AMLO goes after senior Twitter official but gets his facts wrong

Maligning executive triggers false accusations of wrongdoing on Twitter

Several claims made about a senior Mexican Twitter executive who was maligned by President López Obrador last week are false, the Associated Press has determined.

López Obrador asserted last Wednesday that Hugo Rodríguez Nicolat, director of public policy at Twitter México and Twitter Latin America, has close links to the National Action Party (PAN) and was an advisor to a PAN senator.

The president, who earlier this month was critical of Twitter and Facebook for suspending the accounts of former United States president Donald Trump and subsequently floated the idea of creating a national social media network to avoid the possibility of Mexicans being censored, suggested that Twitter might be biased because of the influence of Rodríguez.

It is important to know who works at companies such as Twitter because “neutrality is very difficult,” López Obrador said.

“The director of Twitter in Mexico was a campaigner or sympathizer very close to the PAN, the one who currently runs Twitter,” the president said, referring incorrectly to Rodríguez’s role.

Hugo Rodríguez of Twitter México.
Hugo Rodríguez of Twitter México.

“[He] was even an advisor to a very famous PAN senator. …We just hope he does his job professionally, and doesn’t create bot farms,” the president said, referring to automated accounts he alleges are responsible for online criticism of him and his government.

After his remarks, there were claims on social media – where the president has many ardent supporters – that Rodríguez worked at the (formerly pro-government) broadcaster Televisa for 10 years and was involved in electoral fraud that allowed former PAN president Felipe Calderón to defeat López Obrador at the 2006 presidential election.

There were also accusations that Rodríguez was very close to Calderón and his predecessor Vicente Fox, who also represented the PAN, and that he  participated in the government corruption scandal involving the Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht.

The Associated Press said it had contacted Rodríguez and that he confirmed that he was a member of the PAN between 2006 and 2008. However, he rejected the social media claims that appear to have been incited by López Obrador’s remarks.

“I don’t personally know former president Fox; I doubt that ex-president Calderón can place me so the accusation of ‘closeness’ is false,” Rodríguez said in an email to AP.

He said he has never worked at the National Electoral Institute and wasn’t part of Calderón’s campaign team for the 2006 election at which the former PAN president narrowly defeated López Obrador.

“So I don’t know how it can be asserted that I participated in the 2006 ‘electoral fraud.’ I haven’t worked at Televisa at any time,” Rodríguez wrote.

The Associated Press said it had obtained four different versions of Rodríguez’s CV and consulted his profiles with LinkedIn and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations. The news agency determined that his work history was not consistent with López Obrador’s claims and the accusation made on social media.

Rodríguez worked for an Institutional Revolutionary Party senator between 2003 and 2005 and for the PAN international division between 2005 and 2006. Between September and November 2006 – a period after that year’s presidential election, which was held in July – he worked for Calderón’s transition team, AP said.

Rodríguez subsequently worked at the National Immigration Institute for a period of nine months before working in a range of positions overseas. Before taking up his position at Twitter, the executive worked at ride-hailing company Uber for three years, AP found.

The Associated Press reviewed public documents and media reports about the Odebrecht corruption case and found no mention of the Twitter executive. Rodríguez denied any involvement in the case in his email to AP.

Twitter México described López Obrador’s singling out of the executive and his suggestion that it might be biased as a result of his employment as “regrettable.”

“No person at Twitter is responsible, by themselves, for our policies or compliance actions, and it is regrettable to see comments directed at our employees as if they were solely responsible for the company’s rules or decisions,” Twitter México said.

Source: AP (sp) 

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