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Donald Trump's bans from social media fire freedom of speech debate

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By Hebe Campbell  & Seana Davis with AP
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Twitter bans Trump permanently on the platform
Twitter bans Trump permanently on the platform   -   Copyright  Patrick Semansky/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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When Twitter took the decision to permanently ban Donald Trump from their platform on January 9th, it was hailed by some as a watershed moment.

Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked top-secret documents about the surveillance of US citizens, tweeted "For better or worse, this will be remembered as a turning point in the battle for control over digital speech."

EU Commissioner Thierry Breton tweeted to say the surge on Capitol Hill was the "9/11 moment of social media".

Twitter's move to permanently ban the president and Facebook suspending him until there is a peaceful transition of power, has opened a significant debate on the role and power of tech platforms.

The debate as to whether it was correct for Twitter to ban President Trump

Facebook and Instagram have suspended Trump at least until Inauguration Day. Twitch and Snapchat also disabled Trump’s accounts.

The decision to permanently suspend the president has not been welcomed by all.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, through her official spokesperson, said on Monday that she considers US President Donald Trump’s eviction from Twitter by the company “problematic.”

Her spokesperson also said that freedom of opinion is a fundamental right of “elementary significance”.

The statement echos similar concerns made by Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny.

"This precedent will be exploited by the enemies of freedom of speech around the world. In Russia as well. Every time when they need to silence someone, they will say: 'this is just common practice, even Trump got blocked on Twitter'," he said.

Whilst the debate rages on about whether it is correct for the platforms to suspend the president, the moves have also called into question social media platforms' role as a publisher.

Publishers are held to a higher standard for content - meaning that social media platforms could no longer turn a blind eye to content on their platforms. As a simple network, they could argue that they are not responsible for material published on their sites.

This comes hot on the heels of the launch of the EU's plan to regulate Big Tech in December. The Digital Services Act (DSA) will eventually become a key piece of legislation in what currently is a highly unregulated space.

Click on the player above as #TheCube's Seana Davis speaks with anchor Tokunbo Salako.