(Bloomberg) -- French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Elon Musk’s decision to relax Twitter Inc.’s content moderation policies around subjects like coronavirus disinformation and said speech on the platform deserves more regulation.
Macron, in an interview with ABC News ahead of his state visit with US President Joe Biden, said he believed democracies were under “very strong pressure” from forces including social media, where users could say “crazy things about a vaccine, a pandemic, the war.”
“Right now we’re facing a situation where just in the last couple of days Elon Musk said he will relax all the content moderation policies, Covid misinformation back on Twitter,” “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos said. “He’s making it worse, isn’t he?”
“I think this is a big issue,” Macron responded. “I think it deserves to be largely engaged. What I push very much for, want, is exactly the opposite - more regulation.”
Macron said free speech in democracy should be “based on respect and political order.”
“You can demonstrate, you can have free speech, you can write what you want -- but there is responsibilities and limits,” he said. “The limits is you cannot go in the streets and have racist speech, or antisemitic speech, you cannot put at risk the life of someone else. Violence is never legitimate in democracy.”
Macron went on to slam former US President Donald Trump -- who was banned from Twitter after the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol by supporters who sought to disrupt the certification of his electoral defeat to Biden. Musk recently reinstated Trump to the platform.
“When in one of the biggest democracies and oldest democracies in the world you can have a leader and supporters deciding on purpose to refuse the results because this is the one they didn’t want to see, this is just the beginning of the end of the democracy,” Macron said.
“I imagine a lot of Democrats where unhappy in 2016,” he continued. “Did they invade Capitol Hill? No.”
European Union regulators warned Musk on Wednesday that Twitter faced a ban within the European bloc unless it enforced content moderation regulations. Musk was also warned the company could face fines and should not arbitrarily reinstate accounts, the Financial Times reported.
Upon arriving at the White House, Macron said the US and France shared mutual challenges, including “politics and technology.”
“They’re in doubt in the face of relativism, hate speech, false information and today’s fears,” Macron said.
(Updates with new quotes, details from second paragraph)
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