Do private companies have the right to prevent a democratically elected president from speaking? That is the question that arises from the suspension of Donald Trump’s Facebook and Twitter accounts following the events on Capitol Hill. Several European politicians have therefore raised their voices to denounce the omnipotence of big tech.
Trump’s account has been suspended for inciting violence
On Wednesday, January 6, supporters of Donald Trump invaded the Capitol, encouraged by the President, while MPs confirmed the election of Joe Biden. This event, in which five people, including a police officer, were killed, will forever mark the history of the United States and also reveal the immense power of the technological giants. Indeed, like Facebook, Twitter later decided to lock Trump’s account on their platform, thereby depriving the president of his tool for communicating with the Americans.
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Donald Trump is permanently banned from Twitter
This ban is in line with both companies’ terms of service as they accuse Trump of inciting violence, but it also needs to be asked whether or not a CEO can have power over who has the right to speak. But if Trump has spent so much time between the rifts, despite numerous questionable and dangerous publications, it is precisely because he is the President and because he disregards the rules of the platforms he uses, he has everything just been punished as it is other user would do.
European politicians denounce the decision of social networks
This decision is frowned upon on the European side. The idea that emerges is that only an elected government should be able to make such a decision. “The Chancellor considers the complete closure of an elected president’s account to be problematic,” said Steffen Seibert, main spokesman for Angela Merkel, at a regular press conference in Berlin. Rights such as freedom of expression “can be hindered, but legally and within the framework established by law – and not according to a corporate decision,” he continued.
The same story in France, where Clément Beaune, Secretary of State for European Affairs, said he was “shocked” by the actions of social networks: “This decision should be made by the citizens, not a CEO.” The Minister for Economic Affairs, Bruno Le Maire, is going in the same direction. According to him, it is up to the legislature to take such action, not the “technological oligarchy”. Nor did he hesitate to qualify the Big Techs as a “threat to democracy”.
For his part, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock believes that Donald Trump’s suspension on social media shows that he is “making editorial decisions”. Finally, EU Commissioner Thierry Breton also criticized these digital platforms in a paper written on Politico:
“The fact that a CEO can separate the speaker from the President of the United States with no control or balance is confusing. This not only confirms the efficiency of these platforms, but also shows deep weaknesses in the way our society is organized in the digital space. “
Greater cooperation between the EU and the United States?
Various measures have been taken in Europe to better regulate technological giants, notably with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), but also with the recent law on digital services. The latter provides for much higher penalties, especially for digital companies that do not comply with the law.
Across the Atlantic, Section 230, which guarantees immunity to social networks by viewing them as content hosts, is being challenged on both the Republican and Democratic sides. In addition, Thierry Breton hopes that with Biden’s arrival in power, closer cooperation with the United States will be possible in this area: “The challenges facing our societies and our democracies are global in nature. Therefore, the EU and the new US administration should join forces as allies of the free world in order to conduct a constructive dialogue that leads to globally uniform principles. “