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Germany’s Merkel calls Trump’s Twitter eviction ‘problematic’

Spokesman for German chancellor says decisions on restricting speech should be based in law, ‘not according to a decision by the management of social media platforms’

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and US President Donald Trump on the first day of the G7 Summit, in La Malbaie, Canada, on June 8, 2018. (Leon Neal/Getty Images/AFP)
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, left, and US President Donald Trump on the first day of the G7 Summit, in La Malbaie, Canada, on June 8, 2018. (Leon Neal/Getty Images/AFP)

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel considers US President Donald Trump’s eviction from Twitter by the company “problematic,” her spokesman said Monday.

Twitter permanently suspended Trump from the microblogging platform on Friday, citing a “risk of further incitement of violence” in the wake of the storming of the US Capitol by supporters of the outgoing president.

Asked about Twitter’s decision, Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said the operators of social media platforms “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence.”

He said it’s right not to “stand back” when such content is posted, for example by flagging it.

But Seibert also said that the freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance.”

“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,” he told reporters in Berlin. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the US president have now been permanently blocked.”

Facebook on Thursday suspended Trump’s account through January 20, the day of US President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, and possibly indefinitely.

Merkel herself does not have a Twitter account, although Seibert does and many German government ministers do.

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