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Venezuela asks Twitter to block black market dollar tweeters

The Twitter logo is seen at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
The Twitter logo is seen at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California October 4, 2013. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela asked Twitter on Tuesday to block accounts linked to websites that publish the black market exchange rate for dollars, which the government says undermines its efforts to enforce currency controls and rein in inflation.

President Nicolas Maduro ordered internet service providers this month to block pages including www.dolartoday.com that publish the rate, which is now more than nine times the official rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar.

In recent days, Twitter accounts associated with those pages have been tweeting alternate web addresses to access the sites.

Venezuela's telecommunications agency said it told Twitter the firm was letting internet users duck the prohibition, "a situation that is seriously damaging to the Venezuelan economy."

A Twitter spokesman said the company did not have any immediate comment.

Since 2003 Venezuela has maintained exchange controls that keep the dollar at a fixed rate, though trading on the black market has gone on since the controls were put into place.

Government leaders say disseminating the black market rate leads shopkeepers to inflate prices artificially, contributing to the country's annual inflation rate of nearly 55 percent.

Opposition critics have used Twitter to pillory the government's efforts to block the websites, with the @DolarToday account likening it to blaming a case of fever on a thermometer.

Last month, Maduro accused the microblogging service of deleting accounts belonging to ruling Socialist Party officials. Twitter did not respond to that allegation.

(Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andrew Hay)

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