Leaders from across the globe have spoken out against Big Tech’s censorship of President Donald Trump as freedom of speech online has become a rare, unifying issue for some of Trump’s international counterparts, some of whom have been rivals at times.
Twitter targeted the president Friday amid a massive purge of conservatives which peaked over the weekend. Thousands were permanently banned from the platform, which cited safety issues as its rationale for the unprecedented assault on the First Amendment. Facebook, Instagram and Google-owned YouTube are also undercutting free expression for those who do not align with the politics of the left.
Twitter’s excuse for banning Trump was that he risked inciting further violence with his presence online following the Capitol incursion last Wednesday. Of course, Trump did not directly incite any violence, and never has, which is an inconvenient fact for those who now support the suppression of dissenting speech and ideas.
Trump, if he can be summarized as anything, is a resistance figure to political correctness for millions of Americans who feel its effects on their lives daily. Now, they are prevented from hearing from him on Twitter and other platforms.
But while the American left and the establishment media might be too blinded by hatred and politics to see the issues with banishing a president from the internet, those who have not been desensitized by this country’s constant infighting saw the social media purge for the dangerous spectacle it is.
In Mexico, where leaders have enjoyed a hot and cold relationship with Trump since before he was elected in 2016, the permanent suspension online of the president was criticized by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
“How can you censor someone? Let’s see, I, as the judge of the Holy Inquisition, will punish you because I think what you’re saying is harmful?” he stated after the Twitter banishment, The Washington Examiner reported. “Where is the law, where is the regulation, what are the norms? This is an issue of government. This is not an issue for private companies.”
Obrador’s spokesman, Jesus Ramirez, also issued his own statement, adding: “Facebook’s decision to silence the current leader of the United States calls for a debate on freedom of expression, the free exchange of information on the web, democracy and the role of the companies that administer [social] networks.”
In Europe, where Trump’s America First policies have not always endeared him to some of the continent’s socially liberal leaders, many had harsh words for Silicon Valley’s suppression of free expression.
“The right to freedom of opinion is of fundamental importance,” Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement to Reuters. “Given that, the chancellor considers it problematic that the president’s accounts have been permanently suspended.”
In Norway, leader of the country’s liberal Labour Party Jonas Gahr Støre criticized Trump, but also Big Tech in a statement.
“I understand that Trump’s statements are problematic, dangerous, and encourage hate, but there is a very high threshold to block people out, so I am skeptical of that”, Støre told the outlet NRK. “This is a line where freedom of expression is also at stake. If Twitter starts with this sort of thing, it means that they have to go around the world and look at other people completely astray, and shut them out.”
Elsewhere in Europe, where leaders have not directly commented on social media’s targeting of conservatives, the companies have been under the gun since the November election over the censorship of Trump.
The UK Daily Mail previously reported that in the weeks after the election that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lashed out at those who hold the keys to online discourse. He was particularly incensed by Twitter’s putting warning labels on Trump’s tweets.
Johnson has reportedly floated a bill amendment to “limit the ability of a bunch of woke Californians to interfere in the UK.”
“Boris did not like what he saw in the US election and has asked for more time to consider how to avoid the same thing happening to him in future,” a source in the government told the Mail.
“This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO … There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.”
French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire called for regulating social media, referring to it as “the digital oligarchy,” and also as “one of the threats” to democracy, Bloomberg also reported.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the European People’s Party in the European Union’s European Parliament, hit at Big Tech in a Twitter post two days after Trump was banned online.
“We cannot leave it to American Big Tech to decide how we can or cannot discuss online. Todays mechanisms destroy the compromise searching and consensus building that are crucial in free and democratic societies. We need a stricter regulatory approach,” Weber tweeted.
We cannot leave it to American Big Tech to decide how we can or cannot discuss online. Todays mechanisms destroy the compromise searching and consensus building that are crucial in free and democratic societies. We need a stricter regulatory approach. #CapitolHill @POLITICOEurope https://t.co/ouJwTCT5B1
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) January 11, 2021
“I’m not in favour of censorship — I think if people don’t like what they see on Twitter — well don’t go onto that social media platform,” McCormack said.
The international response to Big Tech’s all-out assault on Trump and other conservatives tells us the world is, as usual, paying close attention to American politics. But in a world where Big Tech’s influence is global, there is cause for concern over how far Friday’s historic censorship might reach.
Americans once set a standard for free speech not previously seen in world history. Now, our tech oligarchs have set a precedent for unilaterally suppressing speech they do not like, and it is being felt around the world.
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