Angela Merkel says Twitter's decision to bar Trump is a threat to free speech

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Angela Merkel says Twitter's decision to bar Trump is a threat to free speech
Steve Parsons-WPA Pool/Getty Images
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes Twitter's decision to block President Donald Trump's Twitter account.
  • "The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance," Merkel's chief spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday.
  • The company said it had banned the president's account because he risked inciting further violence after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is critical of Twitter for blocking President Donald Trump's Twitter account, with her top spokesman calling the move "problematic."

"The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance," the spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said on Monday at a news conference in comments reported by Reuters.

"Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president's accounts have been permanently suspended," he said.

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Twitter on Friday permanently suspended Trump's Twitter account, which he used as a primary communication tool throughout his presidency, ultimately gaining 70 million followers and sometimes tweeting dozens of times a day.

The company said it had banned the president's account because he risked inciting further violence days after a group of his supporters stormed the US Capitol as lawmakers were gathered to certify President-elect Joe Biden's election victory.

Facebook and Instagram also blocked the president's accounts, but Twitter's decision seemed particularly consequential because it was the president's main communication tool.

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Merkel's intervention highlights a growing unease among European countries about Twitter's decision on Friday to permanently suspend Trump's account, with the governments of France and the UK among those questioning the decision.

Clement Beaune, France's junior minister for European Union Affairs, advocated new regulation for private tech companies.

"This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO," Beaune told Bloomberg TV this week. "There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms."

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Matt Hancock, a UK minister, said on Sunday that the decision by social-media companies to ban Trump's accounts raised a "very big question" in terms of regulation because it meant they were making editorial decisions.

The Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny called it "an unacceptable act of censorship."

"This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world," he tweeted.

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"In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter.'"

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