A spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday that the German leader regards President Donald Trump’s eviction from Twitter by the company to be “problematic.”
Twitter permanently suspended Trump from the social media platform on Friday, citing a “risk of further incitement of violence” after supporters of the outgoing president stormed the U.S. Capitol to protest Congress’ certification of the Electoral College vote.
Asked about Twitter’s decision, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said social media companies “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence.”
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He said it’s right not to “stand back” when such content is posted, for example by flagging it, but qualified that the freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance.”
Seibert said the U.S. ought to follow Germany’s example in how it handles online incitement. Rather than leaving it up to tech companies to make their own rules, German law compels these companies to remove possibly illegal material within 24 hours of being notified or face up to $60.8 million in fines.
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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,” he told reporters in Berlin. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
Facebook on Thursday suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20, the day of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and possibly indefinitely.
Merkel herself does not have a Twitter account, although Seibert does and many German government ministers do.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.