- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 11, 2019

President Trump told an audience of conservative social media leaders Thursday that he will call the heads of Facebook, Twitter and Google on the carpet in the next few weeks about “troubling bias” on their platforms.

“We’re going to call a big meeting of the companies in a week or two,” Mr. Trump said at the White House. “They’re all going to be here. We have a bigger voice than anybody, but we don’t get covered fairly.”

The president said he wants to have “a real conversation” with executives of the tech giants and will invite some lawmakers.

“We hope to see transparency, more accountability and more freedom,” Mr. Trump said. “Big Tech must not censor the voices of the American people.”

The president also said he is directing his administration to “explore all regulatory solutions to protect free speech.”

Mr. Trump hosted the social media summit for conservative online personalities and journalists including James O’Keefe of Project Veritas, Bill Ottman of Minds, and Trump supporters Diamond and Silk. The president said the people in the East Room have a combined online following of at least a half billion people.

Also in attendance were several Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri, who said social media giants “would love to shut us down.”

“They would love to shut [Mr. Trump] up more than anything else,” Mr. Hawley said. “We can’t let them. They have to quit discriminating against conservatives.”

Congressional Democrats and other liberals said the president was preaching to a hand-picked and partisan audience.

“Instead of combatting 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. Give me a break,” tweeted Sen. Mark R. Warner, Virginia Democrat.

The president, who has long complained that platforms such as Twitter block access to his @realDonaldTrump account, which has 61.9 followers, said he should have millions more.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that I should have millions and millions” more followers, he said. “It used to take me a short number of days to pick up 100,000 people. Now it’s, I would say, 10 times as long.”

Lila Rose of the pro-life group Live Action said big tech has demonstrated repeated bias against the pro-life movement.

“We have been for four years banned from doing any advertising on Twitter,” she told the audience.

“They told us that in order to reinstate our accounts, we’d have to stop calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and stop sharing our pro-life content. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood and other abortion groups continue to advertise. This double standard and bias is a growing problem in Big Tech, even though they say that they are politically neutral and they don’t discriminate.”

Much of the event was aimed at the 2020 elections and the concern that the tech giants will skew campaigns against conservatives in general and Mr. Trump in particular.

“I’m very concerned that they affected the outcome of the 2018 election. And if we let them do what they’ve been doing, it’s going to affect the outcome of the 2020 election as well,” said Harmeet Dhillon, a First Amendment lawyer.

Mr. Trump suggested that Google, Facebook and Twitter should be siding with Republicans instead of with the Democratic Party, which he said is edging toward communism.

“And the funny thing is that, in theory, they shouldn’t be liking the other side,” Mr. Trump said. “They should be really liking our side because we’re the ones that want freedom. What [Democrats] are looking at is pure socialism or worse than socialism. You know there’s a word called communism, too. There’s a word called communism, and they’re trying to get socialism over the line. But these people are — this is beyond socialism to a large extent.”

All Americans, Mr. Trump said, have a right to speak “regardless of their political beliefs or affiliations.”

“That includes [Democrats],” he said. “But they don’t have the same difficulty. They don’t get shut out.”

On Tuesday, a federal appeals court ruled that Mr. Trump is not allowed to block people on Twitter over statements he does not like, affirming a lower court’s decision that called the president’s account a “public forum.”

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that because Mr. Trump uses Twitter to communicate with the public about his administration and his account is open to the public to comment on his posts, it warrants constitutional free speech protection under the First Amendment.

Mr. Trump said he and his advisers “certainly don’t want to stifle free speech.”

But he added, “I don’t think the mainstream media is free speech because it’s so crooked.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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