WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump told the conservative critics of social media Thursday that they've successfully used the platforms to send messages directly to the American people without going through the "fake news filter."
Trump convened Thursday's White House "social media summit" of critics of big technology platforms, excluding representatives from social media companies.
The president has claimed that the companies are "against me" and has suggested U.S. regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.
In remarks to the participants, whom Trump called "online journalists and influencers," Trump said, "You're challenging the media gatekeepers and corporate censors to bring the truth to the American people."
"You communicate directly with our citizens without going through the fake news filter," he said.
Big technology companies already are under close scrutiny by regulators and in Congress after a stream of scandals including Facebook's lapses opening the personal data of millions of users to Trump's 2016 campaign, and a bipartisan push for new data privacy legislation has emerged in Congress. Regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are pursuing antitrust investigations of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
Earlier Thursday, Trump sent a stream of Twitter messages lashing out at social media companies and the press. He predicted the demise of the press and the social media platforms once he is out of office.
A "big subject" of the meeting would be "the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies," Trump said in his tweets.
"We will not let them get away with it much longer," he said.
Among the conservative organizations that participated in the White House meeting were Turning Point USA, a nonprofit; PragerU, short for Prager University, which puts out short videos with a conservative perspective on politics and economics; the Media Research Center; and the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank.
Conservative groups have accused social media platforms of anti-religious bias, a tilt against abortion foes and censorship of conservative political views.
The anti-abortion groups Live Action and Susan B. Anthony List say Twitter has blocked their advertising. By policy, Twitter prohibits paid ads with content "that is inflammatory or provocative and is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction."
Donald Trump Jr. weighed in on the subject Wednesday, tweeting, "Twitter: We won't allow pro-life groups like LiveAction to run ads on our 'platform' & if you're a conservative we might ban you for 1st Amendment protected speech that we arbitrarily deem 'offensive.'"
Representatives for Facebook, Google and Twitter have declined to comment specifically on the White House meeting. The Internet Association, the industry's major trade group representing Facebook, Google and dozens of other companies, said online platforms "are the best tool for promoting voices from all political perspectives in history."
"Internet companies are not biased against any political ideology, and conservative voices in particular have used social media to great effect," the group's president Michael Beckerman said in a statement Thursday. "Internet companies depend upon their users' trust from across the political spectrum to grow and succeed."
Facebook has banned extremist figures such as Alex Jones of Infowars and Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. Twitter has banned hate speech on the basis of someone's race, gender and other categories. Twitter broadened its policy this week to include banning language that dehumanizes others based on religion, and the company said it may also ban similar language aimed at other groups, such as those defined by gender, race and sexual orientation.
"I've never seen evidence of tech firm bias against conservatives," said Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., who has been sharply critical of the big companies for reasons of their market dominance and effect on competition. He leads a House Judiciary subcommittee that has opened a bipartisan probe into the tech giants' market conduct.
"If someone wants to show me some empirical data, instead of some alt-right member's paranoid claims, I'd appreciate it," Cicilline said in a statement Wednesday.
Trump has an estimated 61 million followers on Twitter and uses the platform almost daily to speak directly to his followers.
At the same time, Trump has accused Twitter of making it "very hard for people to join me" and "very much harder for me to get out the message."
A Section on 07/12/2019
Print Headline: Trump meets with social-media critics, says they offer truth