- The Washington Times - Monday, January 11, 2021

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday hit back at Twitter’s recent move to indefinitely suspend President Trump’s account, calling the decision “problematic.”

Twitter last week said that it banned Mr. Trump’s main account, @realdonaldtrump, due to the “risk of further incitement of violence,” referring to Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol earlier this week. Five people died from the incident. 

Facebook and other platforms also have banned Mr. Trump, just as he is entering the final days of his presidency and facing a possible impeachment effort in Congress for his role in inciting the riot.

The Twitter ban denied the president of his primary method of communicating with 88 million followers on a platform that he had relied on since the start of his presidency.

But Mr. Trump’s German counterpart on Monday argued that social media companies “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence.”

“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,” her spokesperson, Steffen Seibert, told reporters in Berlin. 

“Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”

The prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, Alexi Navalny, also came to Mr. Trump’s defense in the issue and the decision to ban the president from the social platform “was based on emotions and political preferences.” 

In a lengthy Twitter post over the weekend, Mr. Navalny, who was poisoned last year allegedly by Russian agents, said, “Don’t tell me he was banned for violating Twitter rules. I get death threats here every day for many years, and Twitter doesn’t ban anyone (not that I ask for it).”

A handful of pro-free speech organizations have also condemned the removal, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which said last week that “it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield the unchecked power to remove people from platforms that have become indispensable for the speech of billions — especially when political realities make those decisions easier.”

While the ACLU has repeatedly spoken out against Mr. Trump and his administration over issues such as the president’s travel ban, the organization said it is worried about the ramifications of tech companies diminishing online speech.

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