Trump rails against 'terrible bias' at social media summit
President Trump on Thursday denounced the world’s top social media companies as being biased against him and his supporters and pledged that his administration will be exploring “regulatory and legislative solutions” to protect free speech online.
“We have terrible bias, we have censorship like nobody has any understanding or nobody can believe,” he said.
Trump's remarks came at the White House’s controversial “social media summit," which drew about 250 attendees including top administration officials and a crowd of right-wing social media personalities. The president announced that he will be convening a meeting of the companies at the White House next week over concerns that they routinely censor right-wing perspectives.
“We’re going to be calling a big meeting for the companies, they have to be here,” Trump said, adding that he’ll be inviting Republican and Democratic members of Congress to join.
The White House’s escalating campaign will add to the troubles of tech companies, which have spent years denying claims of political bias as unfounded and unfair. Facebook, Twitter and Google — none of which were invited to the summit, which featured ample talk of bias and the unparalleled power of Big Tech — all declined to comment on the meeting.
Trump’s social media summit incited pushback and controversy even before it kicked off, as Democrats and leading tech groups greeted it with criticism and skepticism.
The event itself featured panels and discussions followed by a long and winding speech from Trump, which came off as a campaign speech at certain points as he touted his administration’s economic and trade accomplishments. The president spent the bulk of the speech boasting about his own prolific social media following — he has hundreds of millions of followers across multiple platforms and regularly takes to Twitter to break news and insult his foes.
Trump also acknowledged that social media has been a boon to him on the campaign trail and in the Oval Office, saying press releases rarely get pickup on their own but “if I put it out on social media, it’s like an explosion” and noting that he’s watched his follower count tick up.
Trump focused his criticism on the accusations of bias. The summit was only the latest development in an ongoing crusade from Trump and other top Republicans over allegations that companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and YouTube intentionally discriminate against them and their views.
Sen. Josh Hawley (Mo.), one of the leading Republican tech critics on Capitol Hill, spoke at the summit, alluding to his bill that would require the companies to submit to audits proving they are politically unbiased in order to receive protection from tech’s legal shield, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
“Google, Facebook, Twitter, they’ve gotten these special deals from government,” Hawley said. “They’re treated unlike anyone else. If they want to keep their special deal, here’s the bargain: they have to stop discriminating against conservatives.”
The summit featured an array of lawmakers who railed against Big Tech, including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.).
Blackburn at the event announced she will be leading a tech task force focused on social media censorship on the Senate Judiciary Committee, her office confirmed to The Hill.
The summit featured two question-and-answer sessions, the first between pro-Trump activists and Fox Nation personalities Diamond and Silk, who were interviewed by White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, and the second featuring Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who was interviewed by White House chief digital officer Ory Rinat.
Diamond and Silk focused on their experiences on various platforms, while Crenshaw discussed the importance of the First Amendment.
Sources in the room said much of the event revolved around attendees' grievances with social media platforms, and was attended by a group made up primarily of conservatives and libertarians, with a few progressives in the mix.
Administration officials in attendance included Treasury Secretary Steven Mnchuin and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Critics blasted the summit throughout the day over its controversial guest list, which included a conservative radio show host known for promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory and right-wing personality Ali Alexander, who recently incited a firestorm over a post in which he accused Democratic presidential contender Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) of not being an “American black.”
Trump joked that some of the attendees were “out there,” but said even they “should have a voice.” He referred to the crowd as “online journalists and influencers.”
“You’re challenging the media gatekeepers and the corporate censors to bring the facts straight to the American people and that’s what you’re doing,” Trump said.
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