Germany’s Merkel hits out at Twitter over ‘problematic’ Trump ban

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel finds Twitter’s decision to ban President Donald Trump’s account “problematic,” her spokesperson said.
  • Twitter permanently suspended Trump’s account on Friday, following outcry over riots on Capitol Hill.
  • The move has drawn criticism from other political figures in Europe, including EU Commissioner Thierry Breton.
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel wears a protective face mask as she leaves after speaking to the media for her annual summer press conference during the coronavirus pandemic on August 28, 2020 in Berlin, Germany.

LONDON — German Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted Twitter’s decision to ban U.S. President Donald Trump.

“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.”

Seibert said that, while Twitter was right to flag Trump’s inaccurate tweets about the election, banning his account altogether was a step too far.

Twitter made the move on Friday, following outcry over the riots on Capitol Hill. The move stripped the U.S. leader of his ability to communicate on the social media platform that boosted his climb to the presidency and continued to play a key role during his time in office.

It came after violence in Washington, D.C., that led to international outcry and renewed calls for Trump’s impeachment. The president had called for his followers to protest Congress’ ceremonial confirmation of Joe Biden as president.

He also used his social media accounts to repeat false claims that his reelection was stolen before being temporarily blocked by both Facebook and Twitter, and then subsequently banned indefinitely.

Merkel’s apparent alignment with Trump against the decision by Twitter to remove him comes as a surprise. The German leader has often clashed with Trump over the years, while diplomatic relations between Washington and Berlin have been on the wane.

Nevertheless, Merkel wasn’t alone in criticizing tech giants over their removal of Trump’s accounts. The move has drawn the ire of other political figures in Europe, including U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock and EU Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton, who said it raises key questions about the power of tech companies 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 organized in the digital space.”

Europe and the U.S. have seen some divergence on digital policy over the course of Trump’s presidency, particularly when it comes to issues like taxation. EU officials hope to improve their alignment with the U.S. on regulation of the tech sector as Biden’s administration takes over next week.

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