Serbian president dares Twitter to ban him

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A dozen Serbian media outlets labeled “state-affiliated” by Twitter protested the platform’s action as censorship, while the country’s president said the social media company may as well ban him just like ex-POTUS Donald Trump.

Twitter began appending the “state-affiliated” media label to outlets back in August 2020, in preparation for the US presidential election. This week the labeling was extended to Serbia, where the localization of “state-affiliated” turned into a rather more sinister-sounding “government collaborator.”

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“Twitter is a propaganda machine of war,” thundered a headline in the tabloid Informer, above an interview with a pundit who claimed the US-based social networks were “doing the same thing NATO bombers did in 1999,” and illustrated with a photo of Hitler peeking out of Twitter’s blue bird logo.

Informer is generally considered favorable to President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). 

“Who else should they cooperate with, oligarchs, thieves and criminals?” Vucic – whom the AP described as an “autocratic leader” – said in response to the labeling. “It’s the most normal thing for the media to cooperate with the government.”

“We don’t even fund most of these outlets, as a state. But they fund Voice of America and the BBC, and they are not labeled state media. Which leads me to wonder who is doing the censorship here,” he added.

I can’t wait for them to ban my account, so I can be another Trump in the world.

This was a reference to Twitter’s infamous decision to “permanently suspend” Trump’s account in January, while he was still the sitting US president, on grounds that he ostensibly incited the riot at the Capitol. 

Twitter’s initial wave of labeling targeted Russian and Chinese outlets, while declining to do the same for US, British, or German outlets funded entirely by their countries’ governments. The Serbian Radio-Television (RTS) pointed out the hypocrisy of this in their statement protesting the labeling, and noting they are not funded by the state budget but from license fees, just like the BBC.