NZ Privacy Commissioner questions Donald Trump Twitter ban

Privacy Commissioner John Edwards and US President Donald Trump.
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards and US President Donald Trump. Photo credit: Newshub/Getty

NZ Privacy Commissioner John Edwards has questioned the permanent suspension of Donald Trump from Twitter, calling for urgent regulation of social media platforms.

The US President was banned from Twitter on Saturday (NZ time) due to the "risk of further incitement of violence" after he posted two tweets in the aftermath of Wednesday's violent Capitol riots.

Trump was also banned from Facebook, Instagram, Twitch and Snapchat, among other platforms like TikTok and Reddit making restrictions.

But Edwards' concerns are not about whether the bans were justified, but instead the fact that private multinational companies are making these moderation decisions, rather than regulators.

"The Twitter and Facebook bans are arbitrary, cynical, unprincipled and further evidence that regulation of social media platforms is urgently required," Edwards tweeted on Saturday night.

Edwards said "much worse has been allowed, and is still present on both platforms" than the posts which the companies referred to.

"We should not be abdicating responsibility for the tough policy decisions required, and delegating responsibility for our community standards to conflicted corporates," Edwards added.

Edwards has condemned social media giants in the past, warning the New Zealand public of Facebook's "demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the law" in 2018.

While many praised Facebook and Twitter for banning Trump, Edwards isn't the first to raise concerns - many Republican Senators have criticised the platforms.

"Big Tech's PURGE, censorship & abuse of power is absurd & profoundly dangerous," US Senator Ted Cruz tweeted on Sunday. "Why should a handful of Silicon Valley billionaires have a monopoly on political speech?"

Democrats argued the platforms have the legal right to ban Trump - and that the decision was long overdue.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal said it took "blood and glass" in the halls of Congress for tech companies to recognise the threat of Trump.

After being banned Trump took to the @POTUS Twitter account, belonging to the President's office, to claim he was negotiating with "various other sites" and looking at building his own platform "in the near future". The tweets were quickly deleted.

Facebook and Instagram have banned Trump for two weeks, until the transition of power to President-elect Joe Biden is complete.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook had banned Trump because the "risks of allowing the president to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great".