Trump escalates war on social media at White House summit

Trump escalates war on social media at White House summit

Trump spoke at a White House conference exploring bias against conservatives by the nation's biggest social media companies. He said he was directing his administration to "explore all legislative and regulatory solutions to protect free speech and the free speech of all Americans".

"We're not going to be silenced", Trump said, complaining about fluctuations in the number of his Twitter followers.

Trump and conservatives have been ramping up their criticism of big tech. Free Speech is a bedrock of American life.

Mr Trump, a frequent tweeter, lashed out in a Twitter post before the event on Thursday at some social media companies and traditional news firms, saying, "The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media" and criticising what he said was unfairness by some firms.

Mr 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.

Twitter removed several fake accounts a year ago and in the process, Trump also lost almost 3 lakh followers. Singer Joy Villa, who describes herself as a conservative activist, wore a flamboyant stars-and-stripes formal gown.

Mr Trump used the presentation to repeat accusations that Twitter was censoring him.

Trump said: "We have awful bias, we have censorship like nobody can believe". "If I put it out on social media it's like an explosion", he added.

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On Thursday, advocacy groups such as the Muslim Advocates accused Trump of holding the summit to pressure social media companies into not enforcing their online rules.

"With awesome creativity and determination, you are bypassing the corrupt establishment, and it is corrupt", Trump said.

"Think about again the Russian Federation hoax", he said.

"A lot of bad things are happening", he said.

The First Amendment, however, covers government censorship of free speech. The president has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are "against me" and even suggested USA regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, meanwhile, charged that the president is "essentially conducting a hate summit at the White House", said Heidi Beirich, the director of the group's work to track online extremism. "They say 'Sir, we want to follow you, they don't let us on, '" Trump said during an appearance at the White House.

For most of the speech, however, he pointed to social media companies repeatedly deplatforming, suspending, shadowbanning or otherwise suppressing his supporters.

Republican Senator Josh Hawley, who is working on proposed legislation on the issue, took the stage briefly on Thursday to air his complaints.

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