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Angela Merkel attacks Twitter over Trump ban

Angela Merkel attacks Twitter over Trump ban

Russian dissident Alexei Navalny echoes criticisms levelled by German chancellor’s spokesman

Angela Merkel, German chancellor, has sharply criticised Twitter’s decision to ban US president Donald Trump, calling it a “problematic” breach of the “fundamental right to free speech”.

Twitter suspended Mr Trump’s account last week in the aftermath of the riots at the Capitol Building, citing “repeated and severe” violations of its civic integrity policies. Facebook has taken similar action.

But Ms Merkel said through her spokesman that the US government should follow Germany’s lead in adopting laws that restrict online incitement, rather than leaving it up to platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to make up their own rules.

The intervention highlights a key area of disagreement between the US and Europe on how to regulate social media platforms. The EU wants to give regulators more powers to force internet platforms such as Facebook or Twitter to remove illegal content.

In the US, technology companies have traditionally been left to themselves to police their own sites, though momentum is gathering behind political moves to curtail their regulatory freedoms. Several members of Congress are working on bills which would limit the legal protections social media companies have from being sued for third-party content posted on their sites. Others are pushing for a new federal data privacy bill that could mirror the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation.

Twitter’s share price fell more than 7 per cent on Monday to about $48, as investors were spooked by the renewed debate into the prospect of tighter social media regulation.

Ms Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said free speech was a “fundamental right of vital importance” that could be restricted, “but only in accordance with the laws and within a framework defined by the legislator — not by the decision of the management of social media platforms”.

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