Trump vs. Big Tech: Social media summit snubs tech giants

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is gathering conservative groups at the White House this week for a “summit” on social media that will prominently snub the tech titans who run big platforms on Facebook, Twitter and Google.

It’s a sharp contrast to earlier days in Trump’s tenure when tech executives were occasional celebrity guests at the White House, serving as a fresh indication of the president’s escalating battle with Big Tech.

Now, Trump regularly accuses the big social media platforms of suppressing conservative voices. He has suggested the companies may be acting illegally and should be sued by U.S. regulators.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said the White House conference Thursday would bring together “digital leaders for a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today’s online environment.”

But Google, Facebook and Twitter weren’t invited, their representatives confirmed. And their leaders may be more likely to turn up Thursday at an annual media industry conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, a venue oriented more toward high-stakes deal-making than reflections on perceived bias in online communications.

The White House had no comment on why top tech officials weren’t invited or whether the conference was deliberately scheduled to overlap with the Idaho meeting.

Among the conservative organizations that are expected to participate in the White House meeting: Turning Point USA; PragerU, short for Prager University, which puts out short videos with a conservative perspective on politics or economics; and the Washington think tank Heritage Foundation.

Trump and some supporters have long accused Silicon Valley companies of being biased against them. Accusations commonly leveled against the platforms include anti-religious bias, a tilt against those opposed to abortion and censorship of conservative political views. While some company executives may lean liberal, they have long asserted that their products are without political bias.

Representatives for Facebook, Google and Twitter declined to comment specifically on Thursday’s meeting. But the Internet Association, the industry’s major trade group representing Facebook, Google and dozens of other companies, said the internet “offers the most open and accessible form of communication available today.”

Its members’ platforms “don’t have a political ideology or political bias,” group president and CEO Michael Beckerman said in a statement.

Twitter spokeswoman Katie Rosborough, in a statement, said “We enforce the Twitter rules impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation. “

The White House conference offers Trump a chance to play to his conservative base in the lead-up to the 2020 election.

Trump has played to conservative concerns about bias on other issues. In March, he signed an executive order requiring U.S. colleges to protect free speech on their campuses or risk losing federal research funding. The order cheered those who said universities were attempting to silence some conservative students and speakers. But critics called the order unnecessary.

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