The top official in the European Union’s executive branch spoke out this week against Twitter’s decision to permanently ban former President Donald Trump
’s account and called for increased international regulation of major tech firms.
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen addressed the tech industry’s power while speaking at the World Economic Forum, a prominent annual event held virtually this year due to the coronavirus
pandemic. She referred to Twitter’s unilateral decision to ban Trump’s account as "serious interference with freedom of expression," the Financial Times reported.
Von der Leyen said regulators in the U.S. and abroad should work together to develop a "framework of laws for such far-reaching decisions" as determining when to take action against specific accounts. She called for the Biden administration to work with European officials to "contain the immense power" of the tech industry.
"I want to invite our friends in the United States to join our initiatives. Together we could create a digital economy rule book," she said.
Twitter opted to enact a "permanent suspension" of Trump’s account on Jan. 8, just days after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol as lawmakers met to certify President Biden’s election victory. Trump faces an impeachment trial in the Senate on a single count of "incitement of insurrection" over his role in the incident.
In a Jan. 8 blog post, Twitter said it took action "due to the risk of further incitement of violence" through the account, which had tens of millions of followers at the time of its deactivation.
In the weeks since the ban took effect, top Republican lawmakers and free-speech advocates have criticized Twitter over its decision, arguing that it amounted to censorship. Other social media platforms, including YouTube, Facebook
, and Twitch, also opted to suspend Trump’s account.
European financial regulators have taken steps to crack down on major tech firms such as Amazon and Facebook
in recent years, including the introduction of the Digital Markets Act to ensure "fair and open" business practices. Firms also face intense antitrust scrutiny in the United States, where a coalition of state attorneys general recently sued Facebook
in a bid to unwind its acquisitions of WhatsApp and Instagram.