Angela Merkel criticises Twitter’s de-platforming of Donald Trump

A spokesman for German leader Angela Merkel said the Chancellor found it “problematic” that Twitter had permanently suspended US president Donald Trump.  

Twitter made the decision to de-platform Mr. Trump on Friday, in the wake of two tweets which allegedly violated its policy against the glorification of violence. The company cited a “risk of further incitement of violence” in its explanation of the decision, only days after a number of Trump supporters broke into the U.S. Capitol buildings.

Responding to questions about Twitter’s decision, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said social media platforms “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence.”

Insisting platforms could not “stand back” when such posts are published, and that flagging such content could be sufficient, Seibart nonetheless made clear freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance.”

“This fundamental right can be intervened in, but according to the law and within the framework defined by legislators — not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms,” he claimed. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”

Merkel is not among the world leaders who hold a Twitter account, but now finds herself joining with left-wing Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in condemning the tech giant’s censorious attitude to President Trump.

Navalny said the move was ‘unacceptable” and based on “emotions and political preferences.”

“Of course, during his time in the office, Trump has been writing and saying very irresponsible things. And paid for it by not getting re-elected for a second term,” he said.

“The election is a straightforward and competitive process. You can participate in it, you can appeal against the results, they’re being monitored by millions of people. The ban on Twitter is a decision of people we don’t know in accordance with a procedure we don’t know,” he continued.

“In my opinion, the decision to ban Trump was based on emotions and personal political preferences. Don’t tell me he was banned for violating Twitter rules. I get death threats here every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone.”

Mexican President López Obrador said that he didn’t like a private company being able to shut down a sitting politician.

“I don’t like anybody being censored or taking away from the right to post a message on Twitter or Face(book). I don’t agree with that, I don’t accept that,” López Obrador said according to the Washington Post.

“How can you censor someone: ‘Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful,’” he continued.

“Where is the law, where is the regulation, what are the norms? This is an issue of government, this is not an issue for private companies.”

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also condemned the removal of President Trump.

“What shocks me is that Twitter is the one to close his account. The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy,” Le Maire said on France Inter.

Thierry Breton, one of key EU commissioners pushing for greater regulation of digital platforms, wrote in POLITICO that the fact “a CEO can pull the plug on POTUS’s loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing. It is not only confirmation of the power of these platforms, but it also displays deep weaknesses in the way our society is organized in the digital space.”

Facebook has also suspended Donald Trump’s account following Wednesday’s debacle in Washington D.C., with the outgoing president expected to be allowed back on the site after the January 20 inauguration of Joe Biden.

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