12 Jan 2021
The German chancellor has slammed Twitter’s decision to ban the U.S. president from posting on the platform, calling it a “problematic” breach of the “fundamental right to free speech.”
The social media giant suspended Donald Trump’s account following riots at the U.S. Capitol, citing “repeated and severe” violations of its civic integrity policies. Facebook has taken similar steps.
“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” Steffen Seibert, Merkel’s chief spokesman, told reporters in Berlin on Monday, according to Reuters.
“Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended.”
Ms Merkel is not alone in expressing concern over tech giants’ actions. The move has drawn criticism from other political figures in Europe, including UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock and EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, who said it raises key questions about the influence of tech monoliths and the need for regulation.
“The fact that a CEO can pull the plug on POTUS’s loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing,” Breton said in a Politico opinion piece. “It is not only confirmation of the power of these platforms, but it also displays deep weaknesses in the way our society is organised in the digital space.”
Facebook last week suspended Trump’s account until 20 January, the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and possibly indefinitely.
Angela Merkel herself does not have a Twitter account, although Seibert does, and many German government ministers do.