President Trump's social media ban has opened a can of worms for tech firms who face calls from activists and academics to clamp down on other populist leaders such as Brazil's Jair Bolsonaro and India's Narendra Modi.
Trump was suspended from Facebook on January 7, a day after supporters of the president sieged the US Capitol. He was subsequently booted off Twitter – his primary channel for broadcasting messages to an audience of millions – and YouTube.
Now that tech firms have shown themselves willing to clamp down on political leaders in extreme circumstances, critics and rivals wonder how long Bolsonaro and Modi can remain exempt, The Observer first reported.
Bolsonaro has been widely compared to Trump for his populist views. Like Trump, the Brazilian president has consistently downplayed the coronavirus pandemic, with Twitter and Facebook in March removing some of his videos for spreading misinformation.
The Observer noted that Bolsonaro, like Trump, has questioned his country's electoral system. He also joined a pro-dictatorship rally, sister newspaper The Guardian reported. Bolsonaro was also helped to his position by social media. According to The New York Times, he was already popular as a right-wing YouTuber while still a lawmaker.
Left-leaning Brazilian politician Marcelo Freixo tweeted on January 9: "And Twitter put a muzzle on Trump. We will need another one for Brazil @Twitter."
—Marcelo Freixo (@MarceloFreixo) January 9, 2021
In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not as openly inflammatory on social media.
However, politicians from the ruling BJP Party have been accused of hate speech on Facebook.
Shashi Tharoor, a politician with the rival Congress party, tweeted on January 9: "For those crying foul on a @Twitter suspension: curbing the freedom of expression of those who incite violence & other anti-democratic behaviour is needed here too.
"Those who try to curb the rights & liberties of people they're elected to lead shouldn't be given an enabling platform."
The Observer also quoted an academic, the University of Arkansas School of Law's Khaled A Beydoun, who said booting Modi from Twitter would be the "logical next move."
Not all moderate politicians are so gung-ho. Several European figures, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, suggested tech firms should not be regulating political leaders.
A spokesman for Merkel's government said this week, per Politico: "The fundamental right [of freedom of expression] can be interfered with, but along the lines of the law and within the framework defined by the lawmakers.
"Not according to the decision of the management of social media platforms."