German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a longtime critic of President Trump, but she called Twitter’s decision last week to permanently ban him from the platform “problematic.”
The social-media giant potentially is undermining the “fundamental right” to freedom of speech, she said through spokesman Steffen Seibert on Monday.
Facebook also punished the president, indefinitely banning him from the platform.
Merkel’s spokesman said Twitter and other tech giants “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence,” contending the right to express one’s opinion freely is of “elementary significance.”
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“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,” Seibert said. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also has criticized Twitter’s ban of Trump’s account.
“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,” he said last Thursday.
“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,'” the Mexican president said. “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.”
Kate Ruane, a senior legislative counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement that “it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions – especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”
“President Trump can turn his press team or Fox News to communicate with the public, but others – like many Black, Brown, and LGTBQ activists who have been censored by social media companies – will not have that luxury. It is our hope that these companies will apply their rules transparently to everyone,” Ruane said.
Twitter’s ban followed the mayhem at the Capitol on Wednesday after a Trump rally at the White House. Twitter asserted the president’s account posed the risk of “further incitement of violence.”
“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” Twitter said in a statement. “In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action. Our public interest framework exists to enable the public to hear from elected officials and world leaders directly. It is built on a principle that the people have a right to hold power to account in the open.”
On his radio show Monday, Rush Limbaugh asked, “What does Twitter think that Trump tweeted that constitutes further incitement of violence?”
Two tweets on Jan. 8 were cited.
One read: “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape, or form!!!”
Shortly after that, Trump wrote, “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”
“That constitutes risky tweeting,” Limbaugh said. “That constitutes,’We can’t allow this guy to continue on our platform!'”
Twitter also banned attorneys Sidney Powell and Lin Wood, among others, last week, and many conservative personalities reported the loss of as many as 1 million followers.
Further, Amazon’s cloud hosting service on Sunday night shut down a popular alternative to Twitter, Parler, for failing to demonstrate the “ability to effectively moderate and filter dangerous and harmful content.” In turn, Parler filed a lawsuit Monday charging the “decision to effectively terminate Parler’s account is apparently motivated by political animus.”
“It is also apparently designed to reduce competition in the microblogging services market to the benefit of Twitter,” Parler said.
On Monday, Facebook blocked former Republican presidential candidate and Congress member Ron Paul from his own page after he shared an article he wrote criticizing Twitter and Facebook for banning Trump.
“Last week’s massive social media purges – starting with President Trump’s permanent ban from Twitter and other outlets – was shocking and chilling, particularly to those of us who value free expression and the free exchange of ideas,” Paul wrote.
“The justifications given for the silencing of wide swaths of public opinion made no sense and the process was anything but transparent. Nowhere in President Trump’s two ‘offending’ Tweets, for example, was a call for violence expressed explicitly or implicitly. It was a classic example of sentence first, verdict later.”
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