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Trump’s Twitter Ban Problematic, Says Merkel; Tech Giant Suffers Loss

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, believed that the decision by social media giants to permanently suspend Donald Trump’s accounts was problematic because freedom of opinion should not be determined by such online platform bosses, her spokesman said Monday.

“The fundamental right to freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of elementary importance, and this fundamental right can be interfered with, but through the law and within the framework defined by the legislature, not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms,” said Merkel’s spokesperson, Steffen Seibert.

“From this point of view, the Chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the US president have been permanently blocked.”

He said that lies or incitement to violence were also “very problematic”, but that the path to dealing with them should be for the state to draw up a legal regulatory framework.

Completely blocking out views by halting the account was a step too far, the spokesperson said but added that he backed action taken by social media in recent months to flag false claims.

Merkel had said she was “furious and saddened” by the storming of the US Capitol by Trump’s supporters.

She had also accused Trump of stoking the unrest by refusing to concede election defeat to Joe Biden.

Twitter on Friday shut down Trump’s account to prevent another attack on the Capitol building.

Meanwhile, Twitter’s German-listed shares slumped as much as 8 per cent on Monday, the first trading day after it permanently suspended U.S. President Donald Trump’s account late on Friday.

The company said suspension of Trump’s account, which had more than 88 million followers, was due to the risk of further violence, following the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

At 1011 GMT, the social media firm’s U.S.-listed shares were also off 6.8 per cent at $47.94 in thin premarket trading.

It was the first time Twitter banned a head of state, sparking a worldwide controversy over the impact U.S. tech giants can have on free speech and democracy more broadly.

For Twitter’s balance sheet itself, the decision to ban the U.S. president is expected to have a moderate negative impact.

“Expect slight user decline, though engagement erosion is a bigger question”, Berstein analysts wrote in a note looking into the issue.

Far-right groups maintain a vigorous online presence on digital platforms like Parler, Gab, MeWe, Zello and Telegram and could disengage from mainstream social media.

There could also be additional costs for Twitter and others as they seek to further moderate content uploaded by their users.

“Incremental moderation may be welcome but it’s not cheap and could benefit Facebook that already employees a moderation army (around six times) larger than Twitter’s workforce,” Berstein analysts said.

Facebook Inc has suspended Trump’s account until at least the end of his presidential term later this month. (Reuters/NAN/AFP)

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