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UN chief calls for global regulations on social media companies after Trump bans

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on June 11, 2018, at the United Nations in New York. (Li Muzi/Xinhua/Zuma Press/TNS)
February 02, 2021

The United Nations chief said last week he wants to see worldwide regulations for powerful social media giants like Twitter and Facebook.

According to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the platforms should not have the power to decide if accounts ought to be closed, citing the recent banning of former President Donald Trump from Twitter, The Associated Press reported.

“I do not think that we can live in a world where too much power is given to a reduced number of companies,” Guterres said during a news conference.

Guterres said there needs to be a “mechanism” in which “there is regulatory framework with rules that allow for that to be done in line with law.”

Guterres said the power of the social media giants has him “particularly worried,” noting “the volume of information that is being gathered about each one of us, the lack of control we have about … the data related to ourselves, the fact that that data can be used not only for commercial purposes to sell to advertising companies … but also to change our behavior, and the risks of that to be used also from a political point of view for the control of citizens in countries.”

The UN chief launched the “Roadmap for Digital Cooperation” last year, aiming to promote “a safer, more equitable digital world.”

The roadmap is designed to address eight areas, including universal internet connectivity, “promoting trust and security in the digital environment” and “building a more effective architecture for digital cooperation,” adding that “digital technology issues are too often low on political agendas.”

Guterres has also proposed bolstering the Internet Governance Forum, which encourages the collaboration of the public and private sectors in discussing internet-related policy “in order to make it more responsive and relevant to current digital issues.”

In early January, Twitter closed Trump’s account that had 89 million followers, citing “the risk of further incitement of violence” in the wake of the Capitol Hill protest that turned violent on January 6. The ban severed a line of communication that was vital and unique to Trump’s presidency, a move that Facebook and Instagram subsequently followed.

“This determination is based on a number of factors, including: President Trump’s statement that he will not be attending the Inauguration is being received by a number of his supporters as further confirmation that the election was not legitimate,” Twitter said in a statement regarding their decision to ban President Trump.

The statement continued, “The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters is also being interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the US Capitol.”