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Donald Trump may have permanently damaged democracy, says EU chief

EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen - Credit: Twitter

The European Commission’s president Ursula von der Leyen has said that Donald Trump’s time in the White House may have permanently damaged democracy.

Speaking about Trump’s US tariffs, she told the Davos Agenda summit: “A year ago, my bilateral talks revolved primarily around the question: Would the US government impose punitive tariffs on European carmakers?

“Today, a year later, we are worrying about whether democracy itself might have been permanently damaged in the last four years”.

Von der Leyen also called for more protections for institutions against “the corrosive power of hate speech, disinformation, fake news and incitement to violence” from social media platforms.

“We must also address the darker sides of the digital world.”

“Like for so many of us, the storming of the Capitol came as a shock to me. We are always quick to say: Democracy and values, they are part of our DNA. And that is true. But we must nurture our democracy every day, and defend our institutions against the corrosive power of hate speech, disinformation, fake news and incitement to violence”.

But the EU chief said it was not for internet companies to decide whether Trump remained on their platforms, fearing “interference with freedom of expression”. 

“We want the platforms to be transparent about how their algorithms work because we cannot accept that decisions that have a far-reaching impact on our democracy are taken by computer programmes alone.”

She added: “We want it clearly laid down that internet companies take responsibility for the manner in which they disseminate, promote and remove content”.