Despite the fact that Twitter has not issued a statement about the mass suspension of accounts, there are reports that the suspended accounts may have tweeted in support of Alex Saab, who is wanted in the United States for money laundering.
More than half a million Twitter posts about Saab, a Colombian citizen accused by the US of operating illegal fuel and gold trading schemes to aid Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in evading sanctions, were analyzed for the study.
From October 2020 to February 2021, the intelligence study
looked at 547,000 tweets about Saab's case that were released in Africa
and South America.
Pro-Saab Twitter traffic had increased since the new year and “the primer driver of that increase appears to be the deployment of Nigeria-based social media influencers”, the analysis said.
“The campaign was for about a month and plenty influencers
were on it,” an influencer, who wants to be anonymous, told The Guardian
on Tuesday. His Twitter account was also suspended on Monday night.
Last July, Saab was charged with bribing Venezuelan officials and funneling more than $350 million to offshore accounts as part of a food initiative to help the country's hungry.
Saab was apprehended in Cape Verde on June 12 when his private jet came to a halt during a humanitarian trip, according to Venezuela.
Saab's lawyers said that he cannot be tried in the United States because he has diplomatic immunity, and that he was detained on an Interpol "red alert" provided by US authorities while on a Venezuelan mission to Iran related to a COVID-19 relief effort.