Political leaders across the world have expressed concern at the decision to remove President Trump’s pages from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Several have suggested the move sets a worrying precedent for freedom of expression online, regardless of Trump’s inflammatory behaviour.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the highest profile leader to have expressed concern, perhaps surprisingly given her testy relationship with Trump. Her spokesman described the ban as “problematic” on Monday, Politico reported.
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire told France Inter on Monday, “What shocks me is that Twitter is the one to close his account. The regulation of the digital world cannot be done by the digital oligarchy.”
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell warned that the bloc must “be able to better regulate the contents of social networks, while scrupulously respecting freedom of expression”.
Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, the largest in the European Parliament, told Politico, “The EU mustn’t let Facebook and Twitter decide what’s within the boundaries of the acceptable on their platforms. We cannot leave it to American Big Tech companies to decide what can and cannot be said in a democratic discourse.”
In Mexico, leftist populist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador condemned Twitter’s action, which he described as a “bad omen”. He told Bloomberg: “It’s like a censorship court is being created, like the Holy Inquisition, for the management of public opinion.”
In Brazil, one of the sons of President Jair Bolsonaro changed his Twitter profile picture to a photograph of Trump to express his support for the outgoing president and said the ban was “authoritarian”.
Alexey Navalny – a prominent pro-democracy campaigner in Russia who recently survived a poisoning attempt by Russia’s intelligence service – also criticised the social media giants.
He described the Trump ban as “an unacceptable act of censorship based on emotions and personal political preferences”.