Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 September 2019

Trump accuses social media companies of treating him unfairly

Right-wing online activists invited to White House listen to US president rail against social media giants

Mr Trump said Facebook and others adopting digital currencies must be subject to banking regulations. AFP
Mr Trump said Facebook and others adopting digital currencies must be subject to banking regulations. AFP

US President Donald Trump told conservative social media figures on Thursday that he was being treated unfairly by big tech companies, which he says suppress conservative voices.

"We're not going to be silenced," Mr Trump said at the White House forum. "Big tech must not censor the voices."

Dozens of prominent pro-Trump online personalities convened at what the White House called a gathering of "digital leaders", where those invited discussed censorship on social media platforms.

But Mr Trump acknowledged questions about the online behaviour of some conservative users of social media.

"Some of you guys are out there but even you should have a voice," he said.

Mr Trump, who often uses Twitter to promote his message, said he planned to call major social media companies to the White House in the coming weeks and could invite some of the conservative social media users.

He said he was directing his administration to "explore all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free speech rights of all Americans".

Senator Mark Warner, a Democrat, said that instead of focusing on "combating Russian social media misinformation, punishing anti-competitive practices, or protecting Americans' data and privacy, the president has invited trolls, conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites and the whole comments section to the White House".

Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet's Google declined to comment on Mr Trump's announcement that he would call them to the White House, Three company officials said they had no knowledge of the meeting.

The president lashed out in a Twitter post earlier on Thursday at some social media and traditional news companies.

"The fake news is not as important, or as powerful, as social media," Mr Trump tweeted.

The Internet Association, a trade group representing the major tech companies, said: "Internet companies are not biased against any political ideology and conservative voices in particular have used social media to great effect."

UNITE CONSERVATIVES

Carpe Donktum, a pro-Trump online persona who was recently suspended by Twitter for eight days over a video depicting Mr Trump as a cowboy attacking CNN journalist Jim Acosta, said the face-to-face event could unite online conservatives.

Guests at Thursdays forum said they had received little information about the event.

But the White House said it was a follow-up to an online survey launched by the administration in May for people to report "suspected political bias" on social media, Reuters reported.

"After receiving thousands of responses, the president wants to engage directly with these digital leaders in a discussion on the power of social media," White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

Republicans in Congress have held hearings on claims of conservative bias on social media outlets.

A Senate panel chaired by Republican Ted Cruz on Tuesday will hold a hearing titled "Google and Censorship through Search Engines", featuring the company's vice president of public policy, Karan Bhatia.

Mr Trump made social media a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign but he and other Republicans have long claimed that online platforms use tactics to silence their voices.

The president, who has more than 61 million Twitter followers, met the site's chief executive Jack Dorsey in April, and spent significant time asking why he had lost followers.

Updated: July 12, 2019 02:59 AM

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