According to Publicis’ Levy, social media companies can’t decide who has the right to speak

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Social media companies alone must not be able to decide who has the right to speak, according to the chairman of one of the world’s largest advertising giants, who describes it as a “controversial” example of the action against former President Donald Trump.

Maurice Levy, chairman of Publicis’ board of directors, said Thursday it was important to understand the scale and complexity of managing the future of online security.

He commended social media companies for taking a “more active role” in removing harmful content from their platforms over the past few years, and said they were no longer “disapproved” of the need to do so.

However, he questioned the measures taken against Trump after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Trump has been permanently banned from Twitter and suspended from Facebook indefinitely. A number of other tech companies have also taken steps to limit its reach on their platforms.

“It’s interesting to see that while he was president and despite the fact that he was putting out messages that weren’t really very accurate, very true and very honest, he didn’t do anything,” CNBC’s Levy Karen Tso said via videoconference at the virtual Davos Agenda Summit.

“It’s just that when he was a lame duck they decided they were going to act – which is controversial,” he continued. “I believe that when it comes to authority over who should speak and who shouldn’t speak, we shouldn’t let them make the decision alone.”

“Dangerous” precedent

Twitter has defended its decision to permanently suspend Trump’s account.

The social media company said in a statement released Jan. 8 that the move was taken “because of the risk of further incitement to violence,” adding that Trump’s tweets related to the Capitol riot violated his rules Would have violated the glorification of violence.

Regardless, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has since said he “didn’t celebrate or be proud” of having to suspend Trump’s account. He also cautioned against the move “sets a precedent that I consider dangerous”.

The logos of Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and TikTok are displayed on a computer screen.

Denis Charlet | AFP via Getty Images

Publicis’ Levy said rules should be the steward for the future of online safety, adding that there should be a third party to help clean up and fix hateful content.

“We believe the platforms matter, but they shouldn’t be alone that there should be a third party who can’t decide who has the right to speak and who does not have the right to speak,” Levy said.