Twitter's Trump ban triggers a debate in Europe

AFP
Twitter's decision to impose a permanent ban on Trump's account has sparked some consternation in Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it "problematic."
AFP
Twitters Trump ban triggers a debate in Europe
AFP

The Twitter account of US President Donald Trump

Twitter’s decision to impose a permanent ban on US President Donald Trump’s account has sparked some consternation in Europe, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel calling it “problematic.”

The move, prompted by fears of “further incitement of violence” after last week’s attack on the US Capitol building that was partly blamed on the US president, reignited debate over regulation of social media.

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have all now issued their own bans, triggering a flood of reactions from around the world.

European commissioner Thierry Breton, who has introduced two EU proposals that would place more restraints on digital giants, saw Twitter’s decision as a total break from the past, calling it “the 9/11 moment of social media.”

US Internet giants have often been accused of holding too much power over social media, and many governments have called for them to face more regulation.

Merkel’s spokesperson Steffen Seibert said she thinks it problematic that the Twitter accounts of the US president have been permanently blocked.

“It is possible to intervene in the freedom of expression, but in accordance with limits defined by the legislator, and not through a decision by company management.”

French Economy and Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told state-run France Inter radio: “The regulation of digital giants cannot be done by the digital oligarchy itself.”

Digital law specialist Florence G’sell, who called Twitter’s decision an “earthquake,” detailed a three-part plan on the part of the European Union that she said “could be of great interest to the Americans.”

The EU intends to set up a procedure for implementing moderation decisions, a way to contest these decisions and the possibility of resolving disputes through a third party, she said, stressing legislation is needed on both sides of the Atlantic.

“I think the platforms are ready to cooperate. But we mustn’t be naive: There are enormous financial stakes. They have greatly profited from the polarization.”

US social media cite Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to claim they simply host accounts but not bear responsibility for the content.

“The dogma anchored in section 230 — the US legislation that provides social media companies with immunity from civil liability for content posted by their users — has collapsed,” Breton wrote.

QAnon accounts blocked

Twitter has suspended more than 70,000 accounts linked to the far-right QAnon conspiracy theory after the US Capitol riot.

Twitter said yesterday that given the events where a mob of pro-Trump loyalists stormed the Capitol building, it was taking action against online behavior “that has the potential to lead to offline harm.”

The QAnon conspiracy theory is centered on the belief that Trump is waging a secret campaign against “deep state” enemies and a child-sex trafficking ring run by satanic pedophiles and cannibals.


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