Trump-endorsed Congressional candidate in Tampa Bay struggling to get verified on Twitter

Pinellas County

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — Anna Paulina Luna has been trying to get Twitter verified since at least February — and it still hasn’t happened yet.

The Air Force veteran is running against former governor and current Rep. Charlie Crist to represent Florida’s congressional district 13, which covers most of Pinellas County, including St. Petersburg and Clearwater. She was endorsed by President Donald Trump in August.

“It’s an in-kind contribution to my opponent,” Luna said. “It hurts my fundraising as a grassroots campaign. People have also told me they’ve been fooled by fake accounts claiming to be me.”

8 On Your Side reviewed six separate email chains on different dates this year between Luna and Twitter, starting with her request for verification on Feb. 7. Throughout all the emails, she seemed to meet the checklist requirements she received from both companies.

She was initially told to “contact Ballotpedia to ensure your candidate profile is up-to-date with the most accurate information.” Later that night, she got a final response from Twitter’s Government and Politics department saying “Great! It should now be processed on a rolling basis.”

More than seven months later, she still has not been verified.

“I don’t think there’s any reason for Twitter not doing this other than that it’s a differing ideology,” Luna said, “and I do believe that’s political prejudice.”

Conservatives have long claimed that they are discriminated against on Twitter. The company denies these allegations.

8 On Your Side reviewed all the Twitter accounts for every Republican and Democrat candidate for Congress in all 27 districts of Florida.

Only three accounts are unverified. All three are Republicans in the Tampa Bay area: Luna, Bill Olson (FL-9) and Scott Franklin (FL-15), whose would-be districts both represent parts of Polk County.

But both Franklin and Olson’s campaigns confirm that they have never requested verification, so this seems to be a problem only Luna is having.

There is a fourth Republican candidate in Florida without verification, Laura Loomer, who is entirely banned from Twitter (and other social media) for “repeated violations of the rules.”

The blue check next to a Twitter user’s name “lets people know that an account of public interest is authentic,” according to Twitter’s verified account FAQ page. The page currently says the “verified account program is currently on hold” and “not accepting any new requests at this time.”

It’s unclear whether the program has been on hold since it began communications with Luna in February to verify her account.

8 On Your Side reached out to Twitter through direct messages to its verified and communications departments, as well as via email to its press account.

Twitter had not responded as of Wednesday night.

Watch WFLA’s weekly political show Battleground Florida with host Evan Donovan every Sunday morning at 9:30, right before Meet the Press.

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