Angela Merkel says Twitter's decision to ban Trump is a threat to free speech
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposes Twitter's decision to block President Trump's Twitter account.
- A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel argued that lawmakers rather than private companies should decide on the limits to freedom of speech.
- "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 pro-Trump mob of protestors stormed the US Capitol.
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German Chancellor Angela Merkel has criticised Twitter for blocking US President Donald Trump's Twitter account, arguing that lawmakers rather than private tech companies should decide on the limits to freedom of speech.
"The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance," Merkel's chief spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday at a regular 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.
Twitter on Friday permanently suspended President's Trump's Twitter account, which he used dozens of times a day to communicate with over 70 million followers and which helped him to capture the Republican nomination and the presidency in 2016.
The company said it had banned the president's account because he risked inciting further violence days after a group of pro-Trump protestors stormed the US Capitol where 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 will likely prove particularly impactful because it was the president's main communication tool.
Merkel's intervention highlights a growing unease among European countries about Twitter's decision on Friday to permanently suspend President Trump's account, with the governments of France and the United Kingdom among those which questioned the decision.
Clement Beaune, France's junior minister for European Union Affairs, said such decisions should be taken by governments rather than chief executives.
"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."
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.
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.
"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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