BERLIN (AP) — German Chancellor Angela Merkel considers U.S. 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 U.S. 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.”
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. Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, called Twitter's decision to ban President Donald Trump from it's platform, 'problematic'. 'German Chancellor Angela Merkel blasted Twitter’s decision to ban U.S. President Donald Trump. January 11, 2021 3:11 pm Twitter’s decision to suspend of U.S. President Donald Trump’s account is pushing European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to stress the need to regulate social media companies. On Monday, a spokesman for Merkel said Twitter's Trump ban was “problematic.”.
“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 U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
- The latest tweets from @regsprecher.
- While many are rejoicing outgoing President Donald Trump being banned from most major social media platforms, German chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken up to say that she finds the unprecedented move to be more troubling than affirming. Friday, Trump was permanently booted off Twitter because of the “risk of further incitement of violence” after a sect of his supporters stormed the U.S.
Facebook on Thursday suspended Trump’s account through Jan. 20, the day of 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.
The Twitter community has been up in arms this past week over the blocking of a popular account, parodying German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The account is now back but the shut-down remains a mystery.
'So pleased to have solved the #Eurocrisis. Looking forward to solving it again next week'. Oh, ouch. What about: 'It's surprising how long you have to hold Nicolas Sarkozy's face in a bowl of soup before he agrees with you.' Oh, double ouch.
Does that sound like Angela Merkel speaking English to you? Well, somebody apparently thought so because otherwise the Twitter account @Angela_D_Merkel would probably never have been shut down by Twitter at the start of last week.
Her imitator agreed to speak to DW via a hidden number. He also wanted to remain unnamed.
'Who I am is not of great interest, but I am happy to talk about my background,' the impersonator told DW. 'Essentially, I'm someone who grew up in Brussels, in Euroland, as part of the European generation. I just have a cynical take on all this, and that's what I wanted to get across with this account.'
The fake Angela Merkel Twitter site has over 26,000 followers
After starting up last November, and gaining over 26,000 followers, the impersonator admits he was surprised it took so long for the parody account to get shut down.
'It was reported for what Twitter describes as malicious impersonation. I don't have a problem with Twitter itself,' he said.
No confirmation from Berlin
The real Angela Merkel has chosen not to have an official Twitter site, although she does have a government spokesman, Steffen Seibert, who likes to tweet a lot. But a Twitter message, asking Seibert whether the Chancellor's office had forced the closure of the @Angela_D_Merkel account, went unanswered.
An email and a phone call to the Chancellor's office was also ignored. Twitter has refused to comment, citing 'privacy reasons.'
Angela Merkel Twitter Trump
Shortly after these requests, however, the Angela_D_Merkel account was re-activated.
Then it was closed off completely, and the parody imitator was forced to change his Twitter account address to @Queen_Europe.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert is a keen tweeter
Twitter expert Mark Dang-Anh from the Department of Media Studies at the University of Bonn says that unless the comments on an account are defamatory, only the person being impersonated can request Twitter shut down the account.
'It can be assumed that something came from the Chancellor's office,' Dang-Ahn told DW. 'It wouldn't have come from the Chancellor herself - but I suspect someone would have got in contact with Twitter and said 'we want this account to be blocked'.'
Politicians versus impersonators
The idea of imitators setting up fake websites or Twitter accounts is nothing new - most public figures have a number of imitator sites. But how they react to the fake accounts varies. Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy is believed to have had a number of impersonators shut down on Twitter earlier this year before the presidential elections.
Angela Merkel recently launched her own YouTube channel. With most politicians currently trying to improve their online presence, it is hard to say whether the impersonators or the politicians are winning the battle for attention.
Angela Merkel's relationship with Nicholas Sarkozy was regularly made fun of on the parody site
'The German government spokesman uses his Twitter account very well, he knows how to use the technology,' said Mark Dang-Anh. 'The fake accounts differ, though. There are some good ones but there is another Angela Merkel imitator site which isn't so good because it's just not very funny.'
At least in the case of one man, who is presumably in Brussels, the potential for further parody tweeting about the EU is high.
'When you look at the characters coming out of Brussels like Herman Van Rompuy, Catherine Ashton, President [José Manuel] Barroso to mention but a few, I think there is plenty of material there. There is room for plenty more parodies on Twitter,' the imitator said.
It looks like a battle is going to go on for a good time yet, unless Twitter gets more active in shutting down fake accounts - which seems unlikely - at least for now.
Author: André Leslie
Editor: Zulfikar Abbany