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Backlash among German MPs against parliamentary Twitter ban

Wolfgang Schaeuble of CDU, president of the Bundestag, German lower house of Parliament, is seen during a session of the Bundestag in Berlin, Germany, November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

BERLIN (Reuters) - German lawmakers have protested after Wolfgang Schaeuble, the new president of the Bundestag, announced a ban on sending tweets from inside the parliament chamber.

In a letter published in German media on Thursday, the former finance minister told lawmakers that “using devices to photograph, tweet or send messages from the plenary chamber is inappropriate to the proceedings of the Bundestag”.

German politicians are far behind other countries’ in addressing voters via Twitter’s short messaging service, and none comes close to U.S. President Donald Trump - but the measure has not gone unprotested.

“This is not going to be the last word on the matter,” tweeted conservative lawmaker Dorothee Bär, who with more than 64,000 followers is among the biggest Twitter stars of German politics, proving her adeptness with a winking smiley and a string of hashtags.

“You can watch parliamentary sessions live, but we can’t tweet from it,” tweeted her liberal colleague Frank Sitta. “Would a handwritten letter from inside be ok? It makes no sense!”

It was not clear if either of those tweets had been sent from the parliament chamber.

The backlash comes after an election which heard promises to address Germany’s relative slowness in adopting the latest digital technologies. Politicians fear the industrial and export titan’s strength risks being undermined by more nimble digital upstarts from Silicon Valley.

During his decade at the finance ministry, Schaeuble earned a reputation for ruthlessly policing indebted euro zone states’ budgets. Lawmakers chose him for his new job in the hope he would ably discipline a parliament that since September’s national election is more fragmented than ever before.

Reporting by Thomas Escritt; editing by Andrew Roche