Merkel accused of ‘defending’ Trump as German Chancellor blasts ‘problematic’ Twitter ban

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The US President has been ‘immediately permanently suspended’ from tweeting after the platform determined his posts had violated its ‘Glorification of Violence Policy’. Twitter’s announcement followed violent pro-Trump protests which descended on the US Capitol, in which five people were killed, last week.

However, Steffan Seibert, Ms Merkel’s spokesman, yesterday expressed concern over the Twitter ban and cited freedom of opinion, which he called “of fundamental importance”.

He added: “Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended.”

Twitter users have rallied against the chancellor because of the comments.

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One called her spokesman’s comments “the most unrealistic and irresponsible thing I’ve ever read”.

They added: “Didn’t they see what happened a couple of days ago?”

Another user said: “Whatever Merkel’s view on free speech, it’s not a good look for the Chancellor of Germany to be defending Trump’s right to incite a load of white supremacists to attack the Capitol.”

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However, some defended the chancellor. Deborah Cole, a correspondent for news agency AFP, said: “I don’t think Merkel is defending [Trump’s] right to incitement, but rather saying social media companies should have to play by clearly defined rules set by democratically legitimate reps and regulators and not just make it up as they go along.”

Other German officials besides Ms Merkel repeated the concerns.

Jens Zimmermann, a Social Democrat member of parliament told news outlet DW: “[The ban] is problematic because we have to ask on which basis was it made, on which laws, and what does it mean for the future actions of social media platforms?”

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Twitter justified its decision by stating two tweets in particular “must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President’s statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behaviour from this account in recent weeks”.

These two tweets included one in which he referred to supporters as “American Patriots” who “will not be disrespected” and another in which he confirmed he would not be attending Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony.

Twitter said the latter post “is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate”.

It added: “The use of the words ‘American Patriots’ to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.”

At the same time, Mr Seibert said Ms Merkel did agree with Twitter’s policy in recent months of flagging posts made by Mr Trump and others which were deemed inaccurate or misleading.

Facebook has also permanently suspended the President’s account following last week’s violence.

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