Donald Trump railed against “dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression” online as conservative activists and other right-wing figures flocked to the White House on Thursday for a so-called "social media summit."
Lacking any evidence to support his claims, the president once again reignited accusations that leading social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook were actively suppressing conservative voices and publications from reaching large audiences.
Such claims are clearly refuted by digital engagement figures which routinely show conservative outlets flourishing on sites like Facebook and other platforms.
The meeting represented an escalation of the president’s battle with companies like Facebook, Google and even his preferred communications outlet, Twitter. He has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are “against me” and even suggested US regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.
“A big subject today at the White House Social Media Summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies,” Mr Trump tweeted on Thursday ahead of the summit. “We will not let them get away with it much longer.”
Among those attending are radio host Bill Mitchell, who has promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter, and Ali Alexander, an activist who wrote that Senator Kamala Harris is not an "American black" following the first Democratic presidential debate.
The high-profile White House event raised the prospect of Mr Trump using the forum to signal tough actions ahead by his administration against big tech companies in the areas of competition and privacy.
The firms already are under closer scrutiny than ever by regulators and in Congress following a stream of scandals including Facebook’s lapses opening the personal data of millions of users to the president’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 meanwhile pursuing antitrust investigations of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
Mr Trump’s volley of Twitter messages Thursday ahead of the summit had familiar targets — “certain companies,” the press and his Democratic rivals — that have proven resonance with his political base.
The president predicted, without foundation, the demise of the press and the social media platforms if he loses to a Democrat in 2020.
He then hailed himself as “so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!”
Additional reporting by AP
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