Following Twitter and Facebook banning President Donald Trump last week, France and Germany have both gone after the social media sites as they and the rest of Europe are engaged in their own fight against big technology companies across the pond.
On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who herself does not have a personal Twitter account, opposed the move to ban Trump following Wednesday’s deadly Capitol riot, saying that private corporations shouldn’t dictate the rules for speech but rather that legislators should.
“The chancellor sees the complete closing down of the account of an elected president as problematic,” her top spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said at a Berlin press conference, per Bloomberg. Rights such as freedom of speech “can be interfered with, but by law and within the framework defined by the legislature—not according to a corporate decision.”
When asked about Twitter’s move, Seibert said, per the Associated Press, that those who run social media platforms “bear great responsibility for political communication not being poisoned by hatred, by lies and by incitement to violence.”
The spokesman said it’s right not to “stand back” when such content is posted, for example by flagging it.
However, Seibert said, too, that the freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance.”
“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 said. “Seen from this angle, the chancellor considers it problematic that the accounts of the U.S. president have now been permanently blocked.”
Germany is well-known for its strict anti-hate speech laws online. In 2017, the country’s Network Enforcement Act came into effect, which forces social network platforms to remove hate speech within set timeframes as short as 24 hours for easy cases—facing fines as large as to €50 million if they fail to do so, according to TechCrunch. It recently beefed up this law.
In particular, the country since its post-war denazification has taken a hardline against Nazis.
Former U.S. ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, in response to the news of these comments, tweeted: “Germany sees what’s happening in the US as problematic. Let that sink in…..”
The government of French President Emmanuel Macron expressed a similar sentiment as the longtime German chancellor.
Junior Minister for European Union Affairs Clement Beaune said he was “shocked” to see a private company make such an important decision. “This should be decided by citizens, not by a CEO,” he told Bloomberg TV on Monday. “There needs to be public regulation of big online platforms.”
Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said previously that the government should dictate regulations, rather than “the digital oligarchy,” and labeled big tech “one of the threats” to democracy, per Bloomberg.
Europe has been waging its own war against big tech, with the European Union presently trying to put in place regulations that would give it the power to break up companies that don’t follow its rules.
Twitter last week banned Trump’s account, saying his tweets were a “risk of further incitement of violence.”
This follows in the footsteps of Facebook, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said Trump’s most recent posts indicated that he intended to use his remaining time as president to undermine a peaceful and lawful transition of power.
This also comes as Amazon, Google, and Apple have removed the social media app Parler, which many conservatives have been gravitating toward amid their growing frustration with big tech and speech, from their app stores.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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Shanghai: China’s Potemkin Village
Following a recent outbreak of COVID-19, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has imposed a month-long draconian lockdown on the residents of Shanghai. The CCP has used the outbreak to persecute its own citizens, including through forced evictions and quarantines, and placing alarms on doors to prevent COVID-19 people from leaving their homes. The harsh measures have resulted in food and healthcare shortages and separation of families.
But of course, we wouldn’t know that by reading the CCP-run press readily available in the United States. Instead of presenting the facts, the CCP engages in a comprehensive propaganda campaign that props up Shanghai as a Chinese Potemkin village. The CCP media asserts that China’s actions in Shanghai are benevolent and wise, while Western criticism is a product of malice. Chinese state-run media also insists that the Shanghai lockdown promotes economic stability in China and the world.
Claim 1: China Has the Best Policy for Combating COVID-19
The CCP media portray the Shanghai lockdown as the best and ideal policy. As cited by a XinhuaNet editorial, “China’s dynamic zero-COVID approach” is “the best option to save lives,” according to a “Rwandan researcher and publisher,” “…a miracle for us to learn,” according to a Kenyan scholar, and “a very ideal response,” according to Ethiopia’s National COVID-19 Response Task Force Coordinator. According to CCP media, Chinese citizens have greeted the Shanghai lockdown warmly, even with “[a] mixed sense of intensity, unity and hopefulness,” according to China Daily.
Claim 2: The West Hypocritically Defames China
The CCP press also accuses the West of lying about the Shanghai lockdown, and using COVID policies for nefarious ends. According to XinhuaNet, “Shanghai…has never imposed what Western media described as a ‘lockdown.’” Other CCP editorials actually accuse the West of malice. One Global Times editorial claims that the lockdown “has been deliberately exaggerated by the West.” Another Global Times editorial asserts that the Western approach of “coexisting with the virus” amounts to a way “…to drive out a large number of the vulnerable people with low immunity,” and a form of “cruel social Darwinism.”
Claim 3: China’s COVID Policies Result in an Economic Windfall to China and the World
The CCP also portrays the lockdown as necessary to achieve great economic growth in China and beyond. One Global Times editorial, while conceding that the lockdown amounted to a “sealing-off,” it is “a temporary measure to better resume work and production and to make the economy and society function more effectively. Its effectiveness has been proven.” According to another Global Times editorial, China’s policy is “widely considered to be the best strategy…to both contain the epidemic and ensure stable economic development.”
In an Orwellian fashion, Chinese press claims that China is solving, not causing, the world’s economic problems. According to XinhuaNet, “China has played a decisive role in stabilizing the global economy and resuming the supply chain disrupted by COVID-19.” Citing a Bloomberg article, the same XinhuaNet editorial claims that China “has prevented a huge number of deaths at home and ensured that everything from iPhones and Teslas to fertilizer and car parts continues to flow to the rest of the world.” Chinese citizens, of course, are collateral damage: Ji Qiwei, vice-general manager of SAIC Motor Passenger Vehicle, stated that “The domestic market may be impacted a little by the COVID-19 outbreak this year, but our export market will continue to see strong growth,” according to China Daily.
While the world continues to suffer economic and human damage as a result of COVID-19, China continues to revise history regarding its role. Through its propaganda in its English publications of Xinhua, China Daily, and Global Times, China seeks to portray itself as a benevolent force in the fight against the virus.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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