Political elites worldwide have criticised big tech companies for banning U.S. President Donald Trump from their social media platforms.
At present, the president has been banned from Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Reddit, and Instagram.
Twitter permanently removed Trump’s account, saying that his recent posts were in violation of the “Glorification of Violence Policy.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Twitter’s ban on Trump “problematic,” and said that freedom of opinion is an essential right of “elementary significance,” her spokesperson, Steffen Siebert, said on Jan 11.
“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,” Siebert said.
“Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked,” he said.
Members of the French government agreed.
Clement Beaune, the junior minister for European Union affairs, said he was “shocked” a private company made this kind of decision.
“This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire also condemned the move and said that tech giants were part of a digital oligarchy that was a threat to democracy.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party—a centre-right political party—echoed Beaune and called for Big Tech firms to be regulated.
“We cannot leave it to American Big Tech to decide how we can or cannot discuss online. Today’s mechanisms destroy the compromise searching and consensus-building that are crucial in free and democratic societies. We need a stricter regulatory approach,” he wrote on Twitter on Jan. 11.
We cannot leave it to American Big Tech to decide how we can or cannot discuss online. Todays mechanisms destroy the compromise searching and consensus building that are crucial in free and democratic societies. We need a stricter regulatory approach. #CapitolHill @POLITICOEurope https://t.co/ouJwTCT5B1
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) January 11, 2021
Meanwhile, Norway’s left-wing Labor Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre said that Big Tech censorship threatens political freedom around the world.
He said Twitter needs to apply the same standard globally that it did to Trump.
“This is a line where freedom of expression is also at stake,” said Støre. “If Twitter starts with this sort of thing, it means that they have to go around the world and look at other people completely astray, and shut them out.”
The Australian government has also called the ban on Trump an act of “censorship.”
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack said, “There’s been a lot of people who have said and done a lot of things on Twitter previously that haven’t received that sort of condemnation or indeed censorship. I’m not one who believes in that sort of censorship.”
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said he was uncomfortable with Twitter’s ban on Trump. “Those decisions were taken by commercial companies, but personally, I felt uncomfortable with what they did,” he said.
Quoting Voltaire’s famous line: “I may not agree with what you say, but I defend the right to say it,” Frydenberg said that freedom of speech is fundamental to a democratic society.
Fellow Liberal Party member and senator, Alex Antic, said he will push for a Senate Select Committee into Big Tech’s influence and censorship of political ideas when the Australian Parliament resumes next month.