US President Donald Trump (File Photo)
The White House is holding a closed-door social media summit on Thursday that's short on social media companies and long on fringe conservative voices that back up President Donald Trump's claims of being silenced online.
Trump is scheduled to address the gathering, which was billed by the White House as a way to "bring together digital leaders for a robust conversation on the opportunities and challenges of today's online environment." But the confirmed attendees are primarily conservative tech critics who echo Trump's own complaints that social media systematically silences conservative voices.
In May, the administration posted a form urging people to report potential political censorship by the social media companies, which White House spokesman Judd Deere said on Wednesday got "thousands of responses." The form is now defunct.
The summit is expected to attract figures like Bill Mitchell, a Twitter booster of Trump's who has promoted the conspiracy theory known as QAnon; as well as the person behind a pro-Trump meme account known as @CarpeDonktum, whose work has attracted retweets from the president.
The conservative nonprofit Project Veritas, which uses undercover sting operations in attempts to expose wrongdoing, said founder James O'Keefe would be there. Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican and frequent Google critic, is scheduled to attend, as is Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida.
While the White House schedule lists the event as closed to the press, Trump has repeatedly opened private meetings in the past.
Accusing social media companies of shutting out conservative agendas could help Trump maintain ties to allies, some of whom have devoted media followings of their own, Porter said. Trump officially launched his re-election campaign last month, and it reported last week that he and the Republican National Committee had together raised $105 million in the second quarter and had $100 million in available cash.
"There is a segment of the population that's motivated to get out to vote based on what they're against," said Kevin Madden, a former spokesman for Republican Mitt Romney's presidential campaign who has also worked with technology companies.
"Internet companies are not biased against any political ideology, and conservative voices, in particular, have used social media to great effect," Beckerman said.
Jesse Blumenthal, who directs tech policy for the network of groups funded by the libertarian Koch brothers, said that those on the right have long feared gatekeepers would keep conservative opinions from out of the public square.
The fight to remove the government from regulating speech resulted in the successful push to end the "fairness doctrine" that required television broadcasters give equal amounts of time to candidates seeking public office, Blumenthal said. Trump has mused about bringing the idea back for social media.