US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS
US President Donald Trump. Picture: REUTERS

Washington/San Francisco — US President Donald Trump was planning to meet prominent conservative social media figures on Thursday at a White House forum where he was expected to reiterate frustrations with big tech firms for allegedly suppressing conservative voices.  

Pro-Trump online personalities were due to get together at what the White House billed as a gathering of “digital leaders” where invitees expect to discuss what they say is censorship on social media platforms.

Facebook said it had not been invited while Twitter and Reddit declined to comment. Alphabet’s Google did not respond to requests for comment.

Trump lashed out in a Twitter post before the event on Thursday at some social media companies and traditional news firms, saying, “fake news is not as important, or as powerful, as social media” and criticising what he said was unfairness by some firms.

“A big subject today at the White House social media summit will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies,” Trump wrote. “We will not let them get away with it much longer.”

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

Invitees said they had received little information about the event but in a statement the White House positioned it as follow-up to an online survey launched by the administration in May for people to report “suspected political bias” on social media.

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

Republicans in Congress have held numerous hearings on the issue of alleged 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 Google vice-president of public policy Karan Bhatia.

Some who will be attending saw it as more of a political gesture than a policy discussion.

Deere said Trump would deliver remarks and that about 130 people would attend, without providing a guest list.

Trump made social media a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign but he and other Republicans have long claimed that online platforms employ tactics to silence their voices, allegations that major social media companies have denied.

When Trump, who has more than 61-million Twitter followers, met the site’s CEO, Jack Dorsey, in April, he spent time asking why he had lost followers, a source said.

Reuters