Thursday, May 13, 2021

‘Problematic’: Trump’s Twitter ban sparks outcry over power of tech companies in Germany and France

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Donald Trump received unexpected support from Germany and France after the President’s shutdown of social media platforms including Twitter Inc. and Facebook Inc., extending Europe’s battle against big technology.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel opposed the rulings, saying on Monday lawmakers should set the rules for free speech, not private tech companies.

“The Chancellor sees the complete closure of an elected president’s account as problematic,” Steffen Seibert, her chief spokesperson, told a regular press conference in Berlin. Rights like freedom of expression “may be hindered, but by law and within the framework defined by the legislator – not by a business decision”.

The German leader’s position was echoed by French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire, who declared that the state and not the “digital oligarchy” was responsible for regulation, calling big technologies “one of the threats ”to democracy.

Europe is increasingly opposing the growing influence of big tech companies. The European Union is currently putting in place regulations that could give the bloc the power to split platforms if they don’t play by the rules.

Twitter permanently banned Trump last week after deciding outgoing president’s tweets breaks its rules against glorious violence. He cited his articles on the riots in the US capital.

The move followed a similar action from Facebook. Founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Trump’s most recent messages showed he intended to use his remaining time in power to undermine a peaceful and legal transition of power .

Big tech companies have come under pressure from lawmakers, civil rights activists, and their own workers to do more to moderate content that may lead to violence or illegal activity.

They have long avoided such debates by claiming to be content neutral. But in the wake of the Capitol storming, it has become increasingly clear just how much power and responsibility they have over public debate.

More to read absolutely technological coverage of Fortune:

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