German Chancellor Angela Merkel considers US President Donald Trump’s eviction from Twitter by the company “problematic,” her spokesman said on Monday.
Twitter permanently suspended Trump from the microblogging platform on Friday, citing a “risk of further incitement of violence” in the wake of the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of the outgoing president.
Five people were killed after thousands of Trump supporters marched to and occupied the federal government building in Washington DC following a rally where Trump addressed the crowds.
Asked about Twitter’s decision, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the operators of social media platforms “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence”.
He said it’s right not to “stand back” when such content is posted, for example by flagging it.
The sentiment was echoed at EU level by the bloc’s top diplomat Josep Borrell.
In a blog post published on Sunday, he wrote: “What we saw on Wednesday was only the climax of very worrying developments happening globally in recent years. It must be a wake-up call for all democracy advocates”.
“To fight delusion and attacks on democratic values, and to overcome divisions of our societies. Not only in the US. All over the world, there are political leaders – in opposition and also increasingly in power – ready to undermine democratic institutions”.
But Seibert also said that freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance”.
“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 US president have now been permanently blocked”.
Facebook suspended Trump’s account on Thursday until January 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.