Trump invites right-wing extremists, racists, and bigots to White House ‘social media summit’

A conspiracy theorist, a meme creator and a plagiarist. Those are just some of the eyebrow raising attendees who will descend on the White House on Thursday for an event that will likely become a forum for airing claims of anti-conservative social media bias.President Trump is calling it a “social media summit,” but the White House did not extend invites to representatives from Facebook or Twitter. Instead, the White House has invited its political allies to the event.In addition to inviting leaders from traditional conservative think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation and Claremont Institute, the White House has requested the presence of far-right internet personalities and trolls, some of whom have pushed conspiracy theories, lies and misinformation.It’s perhaps the clearest example yet of President Trump legitimizing fringe political allies.The White House has repeatedly declined to release a list people it expects to attend, but some of the recipients have turned to social media to boast about being invited.Among them are Bill Mitchell, a radio host who has promoted the extremist QAnon conspiracy theory on Twitter; Carpe Donktum, an anonymous troll who won a contest put on by the fringe media organization InfoWars for an anti-media meme; and Ali Alexander, an activist who attempted to smear Sen. Kamala Harris by saying she is not an “American black” following the first Democratic presidential debates.

Other eyebrow raising attendees include James O’Keefe, the guerrilla journalist whose group Project Veritas tried to trick reporters at the Washington Post by planting a source who told the paper that she had been impregnated as a teenager by failed Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore; Charlie Kirk, the founder of the right-wing student group Turning Point USA who sometimes posts misleading information on social media; and Benny Johnson, the journalist-turned-activist who was fired for plagiarism by BuzzFeed and demoted at the Independent Journal Review for violating company standards.Asked about the unconventional resumes of the people invited to the summit, the White House declined to comment beyond a statement released Tuesday. That statement, from spokesman Judd Deere, referenced an online tool the White House released in May for people to report instances of perceived social media bias.”After receiving thousands of responses, the President wants to engage directly with these digital leaders in a discussion on the power of social media,” Deere said in the statement.At least one of the individuals invited proved to be too far off in the fringe even for the White House. An administration official told CNN on Wednesday that the White House had rescinded its invitation to cartoonist Ben Garrison, who had drawn a cartoon widely condemned as anti-Semitic.Deere did not return a request for comment seeking more information about Garrison’s invite being rescinded.Garrison said in a statement that he had spoken to the White House on Tuesday and they had concluded his “presence at the social media summit would be a media distraction.” Garrison said he was “asked to remain silent about the whole thing,” but then the White House informed media about his invitation being rescinded, which he said “disappointed” him and prompted him to speak out about the allegations of anti-Semitism.

“It is obvious to anyone with common sense I am not anti-Semitic,” Garrison said in the statement. “I have received many emails of support from my Jewish friends. I’m not anti-Semitic merely because the [Anti-Defamation League] says I am.”It’s unclear exactly what will take place at Thursday’s summit. The White House has declined to release any information about the event, including a general format of how it will be conducted or what is expected of attendees.

One person who plans to attend, who spoke to CNN on the condition of anonymity, said, “We’re not sure what to expect. We’re not sure if it’s going to even be about policy.””All I know is there is going to be a bunch of people in a room talking about social media,” the person added. “It could be just more general, it could be vague. You know the president will be there so it could go in a number of different directions.”Claims of anti-conservative social media bias are nothing new. Republican lawmakers and conservative media personalities have for years lobbed claims of anti-conservative bias at Silicon Valley companies, whose employees tend to be largely left-leaning.But Trump has poured fuel on the fire, attacking large technology companies on a regular basis and suggesting they need to be regulated by the government.In a meeting earlier this year with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Trump asked about the number of followers he has on Twitter. The president has suggested, without evidence, that Twitter makes it difficult for his supporters to follow him.Republican lawmakers in Congress have also held hearings over the past year in which they have questioned social media executives about their company practices.Such hearings have often strayed far from being fact-based conversations. At one hearing last year, Republicans invited the pro-Trump social media duo “Diamond & Silk” to testify. The two women spent the hearing spreading misinformation about social media companies. At other hearings, Republican lawmakers have cited articles from sites such as the right-wing Gateway Pundit to make their points.

[CNN]

Reality

Here is the original list of attendees to Trump’s summit.

Bill Mitchell

Mitchell has boosted the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. Mitchell has regularly used his radio show and Twitter account to boost and legitimize “Q,” the central figure of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, sometimes hosting major QAnon believers. Mitchell claimed on his show, “What Q is trying to do is motivate and encourage the base” by opposing media coverage that is critical of Trump. [Media Matters8/2/18; Right Wing Watch, 4/11/19]

Mitchell pushed a hoax smearing Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. Mitchell helped spread a debunked hoax created by right-wing trolls Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman targeting South Bend, IN, Mayor and Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg. [Media Matters4/30/19]

Mitchell called for George Soros to be jailed and his assets seized. Last October, Mitchell tweeted that billionaire philanthropist George Soros was “guilty of seditious conspiracy against the United States” and questioned what would happen “if we threw Soros in prison and seized his assets as an enemy of the United States.” [Twitter, 10/6/18]

Carpe Donktum

Donktum, a pro-Trump meme creator, won an Infowars “meme contest” and has been a repeated guest on the conspiracy theory outlet. Donktum is a meme creator whose videos lauding Trump and targeting his perceived enemies have been tweeted by the president’s Twitter account. He also won a 2018 “meme contest” held by the conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, where he has been a regular guest (including an appearance only days before the summit). [The Verge, 2/15/19; Infowars, 7/3/19; Twitter, 7/8/19]

Donktum helps run a media outlet with far-right figures. Donktum has assisted with the creation of the site Culttture, which is reportedly helmed by multiple far-right figures, including fellow summit guest Ali Akbar. [The Daily Dot, 1/22/19]

Donktum regularly posts on subreddit “r/The_Donald,” which has been quarantined for calls to violence. Donktum regularly posts on the subreddit “The_Donald,” which was quarantined by Reddit in June due to multiple posts calling for violence against law enforcement. [Reddit, accessed 7/8/19Media Matters6/26/19]

Donktum has ties to white nationalist Stefan Molyneux. In May, Donktum defended Stefan Molyneux, a YouTube host and white nationalist who has also pushed anti-Semitism, tweeting an image of himself with Molyneux. [Twitter, 5/20/19Media Matters5/20/19; Angry White Men, 7/8/19]

Charlie Kirk

Kirk leads Turning Point USA, an organization with a history of racist incidents. Kirk’s group, which focuses on increasing right-wing political influence on college campuses, has a long history of involvement in racist incidents; for instance, its members have used social media to praise white supremacy and shared “racist memes and rape jokes” in chat messages. [Media Matters5/10/19]

Kirk has used social media to push lies and racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Muslim messages. On his Twitter feed, Kirk has posted a number of tweets that malign immigrants and Muslims. He also once tweeted a flawed statistic that minimized police brutality against Black people, claiming that “a police officer is 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male, than an unarmed black man is to be killed by a police officer.” [Southern Poverty Law Center, 2/16/18Media Matters5/10/19]

Kirk and other TPUSA members have pushed hoaxes and smears originating from believers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. In December, Kirk amplified a false claim that protesters in Paris were chanting, “We want Trump.” The claim had originated from a video tweeted out by a pro-QAnon Twitter account, but it was not part of the protests Kirk was referring to — in fact, the video wasn’t even shot in France. Trump himself retweeted Kirk’s false claim. Additionally, Joel Fischer, a member of Turning Point USA’s advisory council, pushed a baseless claim about Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) originating from believers of the “QAnon” conspiracy theory. [Media Matters12/4/1812/20/18]

Prager University

Prager University is the viral social media video enterprise of anti-LGBTQ figure Dennis Prager. Prager, a right-wing pundit whose record includes falsely claiming “heterosexual AIDS” is an “entirely manufactured” myth and calling campus rape culture a “gargantuan lie to get votes,” founded his online video outlet Prager University to push right-wing doctrines and content that opposes social justice activism on social media. Despite Prager’s baseless claims that big tech is biased against his content, PragerU’s videos have racked up over 2 billion views since its 2011 founding. [Media Matters7/2/1410/30/14Mother JonesMarch/April 2018; Fox News, Fox & Friends6/26/19; PR Newswire, 3/14/19]

In 2018, BuzzFeed News reported on PragerU’s online success and on the site’s use of far-right internet personalities to deliver divisive messages:

Many of the people presenting these topics are establishment, PBS NewsHour–conservative types like [Bret] Stephens, Charles Krauthammer, and Steve Forbes. But more importantly, PragerU’s faculty includes an all-star lineup of internet and media personalities who have made their bones in the Trump era antagonizing the campus left: Ben Shapiro, Jordan Peterson, James Damore, Steven Crowder, Dinesh D’Souza, Christina Sommers, Adam Carolla, Charlie Kirk, and many more. They are, according to PragerU’s founder and namesake, the conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager, “the best thinkers presenting their best ideas.” Their goal: to “undo [the] damage” inflicted by an education system that teaches US students that their country is “a land of inequality and racism” and a place of which to be “ashamed.”

These ideas — each one expressed in a five-minute video with titles like “Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings,” “Black, Millennial, Female and… Conservative,” “Why I Left the Left” and “Why Isn’t Communism as Hated as Nazism?” — have found an enormous, and growing, audience. According to PragerU’s annual report, in 2017 the organization’s videos received 625 million views between Facebook and YouTube, up from 250 million the year before, and 75 million the year before that. Individual videos frequently garner more than a million views; at least 10 PragerU videos gained more than 5 million views in 2017, and at least six gained more than 10 million.

The site is screaming with its own statistics. A massive rolling ticker on the front page shows an ever-increasing view count. (Currently: 1,167,125,834.) Beneath the ticker, demographic information and claims like “86% of viewers reference our videos in political discussions online” cycle through. Stay on the page more than a few seconds and a box pops up asking for your email and phone number. [BuzzFeed News, 3/3/18]

PragerU offers a platform to extremists. PragerU has offered a platform to extremist figures, including anti-Semitic bigot and conspiracy theorist Owen Benjamin and anti-LGBTQ bigot Steven Crowder. In his five-minute rant for PragerU, Crowder took issue with Columbus Day conversations centered on America’s original inhabitants in a video featuring racist cartoon depictions of indigenous people. PragerU is also home to a podcast hosted by former TPUSA Communications Director Candace Owens, who raised her profile through YouTube and Infowars punditry that included dismissing white supremacy and likening Black Lives Matter protesters to animals. She has also defended Adolf Hitler’s actions by saying, “If Hitler just wanted to make Germany great and have things run well, OK, fine. … I have no problems with nationalism.” [Media Matters2/4/1910/8/184/24/18; PragerU, The Candace Owens Show, accessed 7/8/19]

PragerU’s videos often “function as dog whistles to the extreme right.” As documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a number of PragerU’s videos “function as dog whistles to the extreme right” by including anti-immigrant screeds that characterize immigration in Europe as the “suicide” of the continent or claim to explore whether some cultures “are better” than others. As scholar Francesca Tripodi explained to SPLC, some PragerU presenters have “connections” to “white nationalist thinkers” and the PragerU channel is “very blatantly algorithmically connected” to YouTube’s far-right content. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/7/18]

Ben Garrison (no longer invited)

Garrison’s cartoons have been used by white nationalists and far-right figures. A 2017 ThinkProgress profile reported that Garrison’s cartoons — which regularly laud Trump and target his perceived enemies — “have helped white nationalists spread their message online by coating the themes of racism, anti-Semitism and misogyny in layers of humor and irony.” The report also noted that his “work regularly features at the top of the popular sub-reddit, r/The_Donald, and has been shared by Mike Cernovich and Julian Assange.” Another profile, from Wired, noted that “his cartoons constantly trend on alt-right social media platforms like Gab.” [ThinkProgress, 9/7/17Wired6/19/17]

Garrison has ties to multiple far-right figures. The Wired profile noted that “thanks in part to the support of alt-right figureheads like Mike Cernovich” — who also pushed the Pizzagate conspiracy theory and has connections to white nationalists — “Garrison’s income continues to swell,” and added that he “has a similarly warm relationship with pro-Trump YouTube personality and alleged cult leader Stefan Molyneux and frequently includes prominent ‘alt-light’ figures like Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson and Yiannopoulos in his cartoons.” [Wired6/19/17Media Matters8/21/18]

Garrison drew an anti-Semitic cartoon of Soros for far-right figure Mike Cernovich. In 2017, Garrison drew a cartoon showing Soros using puppet strings to control then-national security adviser H.R. McMaster, with another hand labeled “Rothschilds” using puppet strings to control Soros. Garrison later wrote that his “good buddy” Cernovich commissioned the cartoon. The Anti-Defamation League called it a “blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon.” In 2018, Garrison drew a cartoon claiming Soros was behind the migrant caravan. [HuffPost, 7/6/19; Twitter, 10/27/18]

Garrison has boosted the “QAnon” and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. Garrison has repeatedly drawn cartoons and written tweets that have pushed the “QAnon” and Pizzagate conspiracy theories. He also pushed a conspiracy theory originating from QAnon believers that falsely claimed “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is hiding a secret illness or is even dead.” [Twitter, 6/6/196/6/19, accessed 7/8/19; Right Wing Watch, 7/9/18; The Daily Beast, 1/31/19]

Garrison pushed a hoax smearing Christine Blasey Ford. Garrison pushed a hoax circulating on social media that Ford claimed to have called a friend on a cell phone in 1982 after her reported sexual assault by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. [Twitter, 10/2/18]

Garrison has defended multiple far-right figures, falsely claiming one was thrown into a “Muslim prison.” Garrison drew a cartoon claiming Amazon was targeting far-right figures Tommy Robinson, Jared Taylor, and Daryush Valizadeh (also known as Roosh V). Garrison also drew a cartoon claiming Robinson would be put in jail with “Muslim Pedophiles, Rapists and Murderers” after Robinson was sentenced to 13 months in prison. [Twitter, 4/11/19Media Matters1/19/17; The Daily Beast, 6/18/18]

Garrison drew cartoons implying Michelle Obama is a man and that David Hogg is controlled by CNN. In 2016, Garrison drew a cartoon of a muscular Michelle Obama with “a not-so-accidental looking bulge near Obama’s crotch area” that implied she was a man. In 2018, he drew a cartoon of Parkland, FL, mass shooting survivor David Hogg as a “ventriloquist’s dummy controlled by CNN, which was in turn controlled by the ‘Deep State.’” [Mic, 5/14/16; Vice, 3/21/18]

Garrison pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, which was reportedly planted by Russian intelligence. Garrison drew a cartoon pushing the conspiracy theory that Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich was gunned down by people working for Hillary Clinton, which Yahoo! News reported was planted by Russian intelligence agents. [Twitter, 7/9/19; Yahoo! News, 7/9/19]

Garrison has a long history of pushing other conspiracy theories. When pipe bombs were mailed to multiple figures who had criticized Trump, Garrison drew a cartoon “entitled Raising a false flag, featuring Hillary Clinton, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter, and former CIA director John Brennan – all bombing targets.” Garrison also drew a cartoon of “a leering Obama” watching “as the South African state steals farmland from tearful whites,” a reference to a white nationalist conspiracy theory. In response to the death of Hillary Clinton’s brother in June, Garrison tweeted that “no one is safe around Hillary Clinton, not even her own brother.” [The Guardian10/26/18; Right Wing Watch, 10/26/18The Atlantic8/23/18Media Matters8/23/18; Twitter, 6/9/19]

Will Chamberlain

Chamberlain pushed a likely hoax smearing protesters as pedophiles. In 2017, Chamberlain, a lawyer who co-runs the conservative site Human Events with Breitbart alum Raheem Kassam, pushed what clearly seemed to be a hoax that protesters of a Cernovich speech at Columbia University had supported pedophilia. [The Washington Post3/1/19Media Matters10/31/17]

Chamberlain’s Human Events pushed a smear from a far-right troll linking journalists to antifascists.Human Events pushed a smear from far-right troll Eoin Lenihan that claimed certain reporters were “closely associated” with antifacist activists. Lenihan’s methodology was described by a social media researcher as extremely suspect, but Chamberlain defended Human Events for pushing the smear, saying “that it considered Quillette” — where Lenihan published a piece pushing his smear — “a ‘reputable outlet’ and would not independently fact-check work appearing on its site when commenting on it ‘in broad terms.’” [Columbia Journalism Review, 6/12/19]

Brent Bozell

Bozell’s Media Research Center promoted white nationalist pieces that claimed Black people are “a threat to all” they encounter. In 2015, MRC published a piece directing readers to an article on American Renaissance, a site headed by white nationalist Jared Taylor, that said Black people are “a threat to all who cross their paths.” In 2017, another article from the same contributing editor who penned the MRC piece linked to VDare, another white nationalist outlet, calling it a “center-right” outlet. [Media Matters7/11/18]

Bozell criticized social media platform bans on Infowars. After multiple social media platforms banned Alex Jones and his conspiracy theory outlet Infowars, Bozell released a statement saying, “I don’t support Alex Jones and what InfoWars produces,” but that the bans were “part of a disturbing trend” meant “to satisfy CNN and other liberal outlets.” [Media Matters8/6/18]

Bozell called far-right actor and conspiracy theorist James Woods “one of the top conservatives” on Twitter. When Twitter briefly suspended actor James Woods — who regularly pushes conspiracy theories and narratives from the far-right — for pushing a 4chan meme that falsely claimed Democrats were urging men not to vote in the midterm elections, Bozell tweeted that he was “one of the top conservatives” on Twitter. [Media Matters3/19/19]

Bozell: It would be “fun” to start banning reporters from covering the White House. Bozell said on the May 9, 2018, edition of Fox Business’ Varney & Company that it would be “a whole lot of fun, if [President Donald Trump] were to follow through on that tweet and start banning these people from covering the White House because they have no vested interest in objectivity.” [Fox Business, Varney & Co.5/9/18; Twitter, 5/9/18]

Bozell likened President Barack Obama to “a skinny, ghetto crackhead.” On Fox News’ Hannity, Bozell said, “How long do you think Sean Hannity’s show would last if four times in one sentence, he made a comment about, say, the President of the United States, and said that he looked like a skinny, ghetto crackhead? Which, by the way, you might want to say that Barack Obama does.” [Fox News, Hannity12/22/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell said rapper Common’s invite to the White House is another example of the “Obamas surrounding themselves with … anti-American, American hating people.” When First Lady Michelle Obama invited the rapper Common to the White House for a poetry event, Bozell responded by accusing the Obamas of “surrounding themselves with … anti-American, American hating people.” [Fox News, Hannity5/12/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell claimed “the gay agenda endorses the right of gays to marry and teach children, and that’s in utter opposition to mainstream America.” The Hartford Courant quoted Bozell as saying that “the gay agenda endorses the right of gays to marry and teach children, and that’s in utter opposition to mainstream America.” [Hartford Courant9/14/92]

Bozell described an episode of Ellen which featured Ellen DeGeneres coming out of the closet as “thrusting garbage down the throats of children.” After ABC aired an episode of Ellen which featured Ellen DeGeneres coming out of the closet, Bozell said of the show: “There’s this sense almost of horror … there are some elements in Hollywood who are bent, come hell or high water, on thrusting garbage down the throats of children.” [Associated Press, April 1997, via Media Matters]

Bozell complained Glee‘s Chris Colfer, Hollywood are “Evangelists for … sexual immorality.” In a CNSNews.com column, Bozell complained that Entertainment WeeklyGlee‘s Chris Colfer, the Hollywood Foreign Press awards (Colfer won a Golden Globe for playing a bullied gay teen on Glee), and the entertainment industry in general are “evangelists for a revolution of sexual immorality.” [CNSNews.com, 1/28/11, via Media Matters]

Bozell said of Whoopi Goldberg: “[D]og muzzles, for people’s mouths, sometimes are a very good thing.” As a guest on CNN’s now-defunct Crossfire, Bozell said, “[W]hen I think of the people like Whoopi Goldberg and the kind of things they say, I’m reminded that muzzles, dog muzzles, for people’s mouths, sometimes are a very good thing.” [CNN, Crossfire8/5/04, via Media Matters]

Bozell blamed Hollywood for “eroding America’s moral character on ‘gay marriage,’ ” and selling a “radical devolution in moral standards.” In a NewsBusters.org column, Bozell wrote that “Hollywood has played a part in eroding America’s moral character on ‘gay marriage.’ ” He added: “It’s about time somebody admitted that Hollywood isn’t just persuading people into buying Wrigley’s Gum or McDonald’s burgers. In between the commercials, they’re selling a radical devolution in moral standards.” [NewsBusters.org, 5/12/12]

Heritage Foundation

Heritage advocates against LGBTQ equality and uses dehumanizing rhetoric about trans people.Heritage has railed against LGBTQ equality for decades, including opposing marriage equality, gay Boy Scout leaders, and inclusive nondiscrimination protections. In 2019 alone, it has hosted at least five panels targeted at the transgender community, including opposing nondiscrimination measures to protect trans people, spreading misinformation about affirming medical care for trans youth, fearmongering about trans athletes, and opposing trans inclusive language in international policy. Panelists and Heritage staff repeatedly misgendered trans folks, a behavior considered harassment that stigmatizes trans folks and invalidates their identities. These panels are also livestreamed and posted on YouTube by the Heritage Foundation. Heritage staff have also expressed support for the harmful and discredited practice of conversion therapy and compared being transgender to having an eating disorder. Heritage senior fellow Ryan T. Anderson wrote an entire book attacking trans people that misgendered trans people throughout its text and also deadnamed Caitlyn Jenner, referring to her by her former name. [Heritage Foundation, 8/3/158/3/003/25/19Media Matters4/18/19; The Daily Signal, 7/2/19; ThinkProgress, 1/25/18]

A co-author of a Heritage study claimed Hispanic immigrants have lower IQs than whites. Jason Richwine, the co-author of a 2013 Heritage Foundation study criticizing an immigration reform bill then under consideration in the Senate, had written in 2009 “that Hispanic immigrants generally had an I.Q. that was ‘substantially lower than that of the white native population’ — and that the lower intelligence of immigrants should be considered when drafting immigration policy,” according to The New York Times. [The New York Times5/8/13]

A Heritage panel on the Benghazi attacks mocked a Muslim student. A 2014 Heritage Foundation panel about the September 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya, mocked a Muslim law student who pointed out that not all Muslims supported terrorism. Panelist Brigitte Gabriel questioned whether the student was “an American.” Gabriel is a major anti-Islam leader who has said that “a practicing Muslim … cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States.” [Media Matters6/17/145/31/19]

A Heritage associate director claimed universities have become “laboratories with madrassas attached to them.” During the June 17 edition of Salem Radio Networks’ America First with Sebastian Gorka, Arthur Milikh, associate director of Heritage’s B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics, claimed that U.S. universities had become “laboratories with madrassas attached to them.” [Salem Radio Networks, America First with Sebastian Gorka6/17/19]

Ryan Fournier

Fournier is a pro-Trump social media influencer with ties to extremists and the Trump campaign.Fournier is the founder of Students for Trump, a grassroots group and self-identified “social media phenomenon,” which organizes high school and college students in support of Trump, primarily on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In July, Turning Point USA acquired Students for Trump, keeping Fournier on its board as co-chairman. [Students for Trump, accessed 7/9/19]

As national chairman of Students for Trump, Fournier brought on white nationalist James Allsup as director of the group’s Campus Ambassador Program. Allsup, an alt-right YouTuber and member of the white nationalist group American Identity Movement (formerly known as Identity Evropa), was on Student for Trump’s leadership team in 2016. He resigned as president of his college Republican chapter after footage surfaced of him marching at the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. [Students for Trump, 10/9/16Mother Jones6/18/18; Southern Poverty Law Center, 3/12/19]

Fournier has also claimed to have connections with the Trump campaign. Fournier and the former vice chairman of Students for Trump (who was recently arrested on charges of wire fraud) met with Trump campaign officials in 2016. According to an open letter published by Students for Trump, Trump and campaign officials “expressed how proud they were of our efforts and members getting involved in the campaign.” But the director of communications for Trump’s reelection campaign disputes the campaign’s relationship with Students for Trump and claims to have sent cease and desist letters to Fournier. [Politico5/9/19]

In addition to his connections with white nationalist personalities, Fournier has promoted false and anti-immigrant content on Twitter. In 2018, Fournier falsely claimed that California was registering noncitizens to vote. Fournier also promoted Brian Kolfage’s scam GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. [Twitter, 7/25/18; FactCheck.org, 9/14/18Media Matters12/20/18The Washington Post5/11/19]

Ali Akbar (Alexander)

Akbar pushed a racist smear that Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) was not Black. In June, Akbar, a Republican political operative who co-launched the site Culttture with other far-right figures, tweeted a racist smear that Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris is “*not* an American Black” and “is half Indian and half Jamaican.” The same language was later tweeted by a network of bot accounts and Donald Trump Jr. pushed the tweet. Smears questioning Harris’ background had been circulating online for months and were popularized by an Obama birther and neo-Nazis. [Observer, 10/30/18; The Daily Dot, 1/22/19; BuzzFeed News, 6/28/19]

Akbar co-hosted a Periscope session with a Charlottesville rally participant where a Nazi flag was waved around. In 2017, Akbar co-hosted a Periscope session with Matt Colligan, who goes by “Millennial Matt” online and was a participant in the “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA. During the Periscope stream, Colligan waved a swastika flag in front of the camera, saying, “Adolf Hitler, he was a great man,” and referring to white nationalist Richard Spencer as “a good guy.” [Media Matters10/19/17]

Akbar was briefly suspended from Twitter after he tweeted about an upcoming “civil war in America” and called for people to buy guns and ammo. [Media Matters1/9/19]

Akbar co-created a film with far-right trolls smearing Ilhan Omar, during which they filed a false police report. Akbar co-created a film with far-right trolls Wohl and Laura Loomer suggesting Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) was a threat to the country. During the film, the trio went to a Minneapolis police station to report supposedly threatening messages they received on Twitter. The film, according to Right Wing Watch, “shows a threat that was sent by an account using the name ‘Drake Holmes’ that NBC News’ Ben Collins reported to be controlled by Wohl.” [Right Wing Watch, 3/13/19]

James O’Keefe

O’Keefe has repeatedly pushed doctored and misleading “undercover” videos. O’Keefe has repeatedly made “undercover sting” videos that are false and misleading. He has hired a woman to pretend to be an accuser of then-Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, made deceptive videos targeting the community organizing group ACORN (for which he was forced to pay $100,000 and publicly apologize as part of a court settlement), put out a video claiming that a voter was dead (he was later found to be very much alive) and that non-citizens were voting (they were actually citizens), and selectively edited a video of census workers to falsely suggest supervisors were encouraging employees to falsify information on their time sheets. Multiple purported exposes done by O’Keefe of targets like CNN and the Russia narrative were complete duds. [Media Matters6/27/1711/28/171/12/18]

O’Keefe attempted to lure CNN reporter Abbie Boudreau onto a boat he called his “pleasure palace,” where he would secretly record his attempts to “hit on her” with props including a “condom jar,” Viagra, pornography, a ceiling mirror, and “fuzzy handcuffs.” Boudreau reported that a document she obtained explained the motivation: “The joke is that the tables have turned on CNN. Using hot blondes to seduce interviewees to get screwed on television, you are faux seducing her in order to screw her on television.” [CNN, 9/29/10Media Matters9/29/10]

O’Keefe pled guilty to a misdemeanor in a scheme where he entered Sen. Mary Landrieu’s [D-LA] office under false pretenses. [New York Times5/26/10]

O’Keefe stung himself, detailing his plans to infiltrate a progressive philanthropist’s organization on its own voicemail. O’Keefe accidentally detailed his plans to infiltrate and smear progressive organizations on the voicemail of Dana Geraghty, an employee of liberal philanthropist George Soros’ Open Society Foundations. [Media Matters5/20/16]

O’Keefe criticized social media platforms for banning Infowars and has been boosted by Infowars. After social media platforms banned Infowars and Alex Jones, O’Keefe tweeted, “Infowars targeted, taken off social media. These tech companies’ practices are opaque and given their power must be made more transparent. We will expose the entire rotten tech machine.” O’Keefe has also been an Infowars guest multiple times, appearing, for instance, with Roger Stone in 2016 to push claims that the 2016 election would be rigged against Trump. A week prior to that Jones made an on-air fundraising pitch for O’Keefe while hosting him, calling him “an example … to everybody else on how you can go out and take on these criminals.” [Media Matters8/6/18; Genesis Communications Networks, The Alex Jones Show10/20/1610/27/16]

O’Keefe attended events featuring multiple far-right figures. In 2017, O’Keefe attended the “Real News Correspondents Gala” in Washington, D.C., which was sponsored by far-right blog The Gateway Pundit and which was attended by Cernovich and Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes. During the event, Gateway Pundit founder Jim Hoft gave O’Keefe an award, and in an acceptance speech O’Keefe said, “Not only do they not do the journalism, but they’re too afraid. … We really are the only ones left to actually do the job.” In 2018, O’Keffe made a video appearance at a panel also put together by Hoft complaining about social media that included anti-Muslim figure Pamela Geller. [Media Matters5/5/172/9/18]

The Donald J. Trump Foundation previously gave a $10,000 donation to O’Keefe’s Project Veritas in May 2015. [Media Matters10/20/16; ThinkProgress, 10/20/16]

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL)

Gaetz falsely suggested Soros was funding a migrant caravan. Last October, Gaetz tweeted a video and wrote, “Footage in Honduras giving cash 2 women & children 2 join the caravan & storm the US border @ election time. Soros? US-backed NGOs? Time to investigate the source!” The video was actually was from Guatemala, and there is no evidence that Soros was involved. [The New York Times10/20/18]

Gaetz was an Infowars guest and has been praised by Infowars hosts. In 2018, Gaetz appeared on Infowars and host Alex Jones called him “one of the strongest, most focused, eloquent, on target voices” defending Trump. Another Infowars host, Owen Shroyer, the following month said that he thought Gaetz and Fox host Tucker Carlson “agree with the things we say and they probably like us.” [Genesis Communications Network, The Alex Jones Show1/29/182/13/18]

Gaetz invited a far-right Holocaust denier to the State of the Union address. Gaetz invited Chuck Johnson, a far-right troll and Holocaust denier, to Trump’s 2018 State of the Union address, and later falsely told a Fox host that Johnson is “not a holocaust denier, he’s not a white supremacist.” [Mediaite, 2/1/18]

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN)

In 2017, Blackburn claimed Twitter was censoring her campaign ad that included the phrase “baby body parts.” In October 2017, Blackburn claimed that Twitter was censoring a video announcing her run for Senate (which she eventually won). In the video, Blackburn alleged that she “fought Planned Parenthood, and we stopped the sale of baby body parts” in reference to her time as chair of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives — which was convened following the release of deceptive videos about Planned Parenthood by a discredited anti-abortion group. Twitter initially refused to let Blackburn’s campaign pay to promote the video because the platform claimed it violated “inflammatory” content rules (though it was still allowed to remain on Blackburn’s Twitter account). Twitter backtracked the next day and allowed the ad to run as promoted content. In 2019, Blackburn referred to this incident during a Senate hearing on social media censorship and received an apology from Twitter’s representative at the hearing. [Media Matters10/12/174/11/19; Vox, 10/30/18]

Tim Pool

A study found that Pool was at the near center of network of far-right YouTube accounts. A study published last September from Data & Society’ Rebecca Lewis about what she called the “Alternative Influence Network” — a group of YouTubers that push far-right content and appear in each others’ videos — put Pool at nearly the direct center of this network.

Pool has done videos and otherwise interacted with multiple white nationalists and far-right figures.Pool has done multiple YouTube videos with white nationalist figures such as Brittany Pettibone, who has worked with other far-right figures to prevent refugees from reaching Europe and was banned from the U.K. with her fiance, Martin Sellner, a leader of the white nationalist Austrian Identitarian movement.Pool has also appeared with Lauren Southern, who amplified the white supremacist conspiracy theory of a white genocide occuring in South Africa. Pool has also socialized with James Allsup and Tim Gionet (also known as Baked Alaska), who often tweeted neo-Nazi imagery and Hitler apologism. Pool has also been a guest on Infowars, and in 2017 he offered to help Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson investigate an area of Sweden that Watson called “crime ridden migrant suburbs.” [Twitter, 3/5/193/27/195/7/19Media Matters11/20/173/28/194/8/19; Mashable, 2/21/17]

Pool pushed a smear from a far-right troll linking journalists to anti-fascists. Soon after far-right troll Eoin Lenihan pushed a smear that certain reporters were “closely associated” with anti-facist activists, Pool amplified the smear in a YouTube video titled “Verified Journalists Exposed Working With Antifa And Far Left Activists.” [Columbia Journalism Review, 6/12/19; YouTube, 5/17/19]

Pool pushed a flimsy rumor that anti-fascist protesters threw cement milkshakes. Pool pushed an extremely dubious claim fueled by far-right “Pizzagate” conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec that anti-facist protesters in Portland, OR, threw milkshakes containing cement at right-wing protesters. There has been no actual evidence for the claim. [Twitter, 7/1/19Media Matters7/1/19]

Benny Johnson

Johnson is a serial plagiarist. Johnson, who joined Turning Point USA in February, was fired from Buzzfeed News in 2014 “for repeatedly copying others’ work.” He was reportedly later caught plagiarizing again while working at Independent Journal Review. [The Daily Beast, 2/6/19]

Johnson was suspended from IJR for pushing far-right conspiracy theory about Obama and Trump’s Muslim ban. In 2017, Johnson was suspended as chief content officer of Independent Journal Review after pushing a far-right conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama’s then-recent visit to Hawaii influenced a federal judge’s ruling that froze Trump’s revised Muslim ban. [Media Matters3/22/17]

Johnson hinted at far-right conspiracy theory that Obamas were involved with Jussie Smollett’s incident and its aftermath. After charges were dropped against actor Jussie Smollett for what police say was a staged attack, Johnson posted a meme on Instagram of the Obamas with Smollett and the words “there is more to this story.” Johnson also wrote on Instagram about the Obamas’ past connections with Smollett and claimed that “there is a deeper story here.” Before Johnson’s post, far-right figures, social media accounts, and message boards had suggested that the Obamas were directly involved in the staged attack. [Media Matters3/29/19]

Johnson kicked off a TPUSA event by saying, “Oh my God, I’ve never seen so many white people in one room. This is incredible!” [Twitter, 3/30/19]

Johnson suggested Kanye West was born into poverty because he was Black. After rapper Kanye West expressed support for Trump, Johnson defended him by writing in a since-deleted tweet, “A black man, born impoverished & into a broken home, works his way into a multimillionaire global pop star, fashion guru & cultural icon. He dares think different politically.” West actually grew up in a middle-class family. [Splinter News, 10/12/18]

The Gateway Pundit

Gateway Pundit has repeatedly pushed misinformation, and one of the victims of its false stories sued the site. The site has regularly pushed false stories and inaccurate information, such as a parody article (presented as if it were real) about former President Barack Obama’s birth certificate (which it called a “forgery” in another piece), a piece claiming Obama was “photoshopped into famous Situation Room photo” during the Osama bin Laden raid, and an article suggesting Hillary Clinton had a “a seizure on camera.” It has also repeatedly accused the wrong people of mass shootings and attacks, including after a white nationalist drove a car into a crowd of counterprotesters during the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The wrongly blamed person in turn sued Gateway Pundit, along with other far-right outlets, that had misidentified him. [Media Matters1/25/17; The Daily Beast, 3/13/18]

Gateway Pundit published an Internet Research Agency tweet later directly cited in one of Robert Mueller’s indictments. In 2016, the site embedded a tweet from Twitter account @TEN_GOP in a piece to allege that voting fraud was occurring in Florida. @TEN_GOP was later revealed to be one of the Twitter accounts run by Russia’s Internet Research Agency (IRA) to interfere with the 2016 presidential election, and special counsel Robert Mueller’s indictment against the IRA specifically cited that @TEN_GOP tweet. [Media Matters2/16/18]

Gateway Pundit defended the QAnon conspiracy theory. Last August, the site published a blog criticizing media outlets that tried to “mischaracterize and discredit” the QAnon conspiracy theory and questioning whether “QAnon’s central theme” is “truly farfetched.” [The Gateway Pundit, 8/12/18]

Gateway Pundit relied on a QAnon account to push a false smear against E. Jean Carroll. After author and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll reported that Trump sexually assaulted her in the 1990s, the site cited a QAnon Twitter account to push a smear that Carroll took her allegation from a Law & Order: SVU episode. A person “with knowledge of how the ‘Law & Order: SVU’ episode came together” told CNN that there was “no correlation — none whatsoever” between Carroll’s account and the episode. [Media Matters6/26/19; CNN, 6/27/19]

Gateway Pundit pushed an 8chan hoax that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in a medically induced coma. In January, while pushing a QAnon-popularized conspiracy theory about Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s whereabouts and health, the site embedded a tweet with an image of a post from voat, a Reddit clone popular with alt-right trolls, that in turn pushed a hoax from 8chan that Ginsburg was in a medically induced coma. [The Daily Beast, 1/31/19; Twitter, 1/29/19]

Gateway Pundit pushed forged documents uploaded to 4chan to smear Emmanuel Macron. In 2017, the site pushed forged documents uploaded to 4chan alleging that then-French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron was evading taxes. [Media Matters5/5/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory. The site played a major role pushing the Seth Rich conspiracy theory, using the theory to falsely claim Russia did not hack the Democratic National Committee in 2016 and suggesting Hillary Clinton was involved in his death. [BuzzFeed News, 5/22/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed a Twitter hoax smearing Roy Moore accusers. In 2017, the site pushed a tweet from an anonymous Twitter account claiming The Washington Post offered money to one of the women who reported sexual misconduct by then-Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore. The person behind the account was, according to The Daily Beast, “a serial fabulist who has been using the identity of a Navy serviceman who died in 2007” and who “repeatedly invented stories in the past.” [The Daily Beast, 11/14/17]

Gateway Pundit pushed a hoax smearing Pete Buttigieg. The site helped spread the hoax from Wohl and Burkman targeting Pete Buttigieg. [Media Matters4/30/19]

Gateway Pundit held a gala for multiple far-right figures. In 2017, the site held a “Real News Correspondents Gala” in Washington, D.C., which included Cernovich and McInnes as attendees. [Media Matters5/5/17]

Minds.com

Minds.com is filled with white nationalist content. Social media platform Minds.com features content that has included Holocaust denial, celebration of swastikas, racist memes, anti-Semitism, and misogyny. Google has barred the platform from using its AdSense advertising service to monetize content. [Media Matters2/22/18]

Neo-Nazi groups used Minds.com for recruitment. Vice reported that “miliant neo-Nazi groups connected to Atomwaffen Division—a violent American hate group connected to several murders—was using Minds as a platform for recruiting and spreading propaganda.” [Vice, 7/10/19]

Joy Villa

Villa has pushed the QAnon conspiracy theory. Joy Villa, a singer who says she is a delegate for the California Republican Party and a former member of Trump’s campaign advisory board, wore “Q” earrings at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February. She has also tweeted about the conspiracy theory. [Twitter, 1/7/182/19/193/1/19; The Daily Beast, 7/11/19]

Lila Rose

Rose, founder of the anti-abortion group Live Action, fundraised off inaccurate allegations that social media platforms are censoring her organization. In 2017, Rose appeared on the June 26 edition of Fox’s Tucker Carlson Tonight and claimed that Twitter was censoring Live Action’s ads. In reality, the content remained on the platform — Live Action simply wasn’t allowed to promote the ads because the group had violated several of Twitter’s content policies. During the same appearance, Rose also mentioned that Live Action had a $40,000 fundraising goal to meet within the week. By June 30, the organization had reached its fundraising goal and was asking supporters to continue donating in order to “guarantee” it could continue working “to expose the abortion industry” in spite of alleged censorship. More recently, Rose claimed Pinterest was censoring anti-abortion content when her group was banned from the platform. However, as Pinterest explained, the group was banned for promoting “misinformation related to conspiracies and anti-vaccination advice.” In spite of these continuing allegations of “censorship,” Live Action regularly dominates abortion-related news, at least on Facebook. [Media Matters7/6/174/18/184/11/195/28/196/5/19, BuzzFeed News, 6/11/19]

Trump Baselessly Claims to Tucker Carlson That Twitter is Stopping Him From Getting Followers: It’s ‘Possibly Illegal’

President Donald Trump baselessly claimed Twitter is stopping him from getting followers in his interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, calling the alleged conspiracy “possibly illegal.”

Carlson teed up Trump by claiming the Google is conspiring against him.

“Google, by some measures, the most powerful company in the world — all information flows through it — they’re against you,” Carlson said. “They don’t want you reelected. Can you get reelected if Google is against you?”

“I won. They were totally against me,” Trump said. “I won.”

He then leveled the allegation against Twitter.

“If you look at Twitter, I have millions and millions of people on Twitter and it’s — you know, it’s a very good arm for me. It’s great social media. But they don’t treat me right,” he said. “And I know for a fact, I mean, a lot of people try and follow me and it’s very hard. I have so many people coming up that they say, ‘Sir, it’s so hard. They make it hard to follow.’ What they’re doing is wrong and possibly illegal. And a lot of things are being looked at right now.”

Carlson did not question Trump’s claim. Jack Dorsey, the Twitter CEO, had to explain to Trump at a meeting earlier this year how followers on the social media platform work.

Trump continued by agreeing with Carlson that “Google is very powerful, but I won.” He added that his polling is at “54 or 55, and they do say you can add 10 to whatever poll I have, okay?” It’s unclear who told Trump he can add 10 points to his polling numbers.

“So when they say it’s the most powerful, it may be, but they were against me,” he continued. “Facebook was against me. They were all against me. Twitter was against me. Twitter — I’ve been very good for Twitter. I don’t think Twitter would be the same without what I do on Twitter.”

Following Trump’s suggestion that Twitter is breaking the law by thwarting his following, Carlson asked if the Justice Department should investigate.

“Well, they could be and I don’t want to even say whether or not they’re doing something, but I will tell you, there are a lot of people that want us to and there are a lot of people — all you have to do is pick up a newspaper and read it or see it or watch Fox or watch some other network,” Trump explained. “There are a lot of people that want us to take action against Facebook and against Twitter and frankly, against Amazon.”

“A lot of people want us to take action,” Trump said.

“Are you going to?” Carlson asked.

“I can’t say that, Tucker,” Trump replied. “That I can’t say.”

[Mediaite]

Media

Trump: Tech companies, not Russia, trying to ‘rig the election’

President Donald Trump today suggested tech giants like Google and Twitter are the greatest threat to the integrity of the 2020 presidential election — and said anti-conservative bias among the companies had a greater impact in 2016 than Russian meddling.

“Let me tell you, they’re trying to rig the election,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox Business. “That’s what we should be looking at, not that witch hunt, the phony witch hunt.”

Charging Google with being “totally biased” in favor of Democrats and fomenting “hatred for the Republicans,” Trump downplayed Russia’s 2016 social media manipulation: “You know, they talk about Russia because they had some bloggers—and by the way, those bloggers, some of them were going both ways. They were for Clinton and for Trump.”

Lawmakers, academics and U.S. intelligence officials are in broad agreement that Russia mounted a vast online disinformation campaign ahead of the 2016 election with the aim of inflaming American political and social tensions, supporting Trump’s candidacy and depressing Democratic voter turnout.

Trump’s comments reiterated claims that he and other prominent Republicans have made alleging that tech companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter are biased against conservatives and deliberately stifle their accounts and content. The companies flatly deny these allegations.

His criticisms came immediately after an extended broadside against Twitter for allegedly blocking people from following his account on the site, a claim the president has made repeatedly without evidence.

Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A Google spokesperson said, “We build our products with extraordinary care and safeguards to be a trustworthy source of information for everyone, without any regard for political viewpoint,” noting the company’s publicly available criteria for determining the quality of search results.

[Politico]

Trump: We’re ‘looking into’ banning of right-wing commentators on social media

President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that his administration is “looking into” the banning of right-wing media personalities from prominent social media platforms — following a purge by Facebook of accounts belonging to several controversial political figures.

The president lamented the apparent suspension of actor and Trump supporter James Woods’ Twitter account, as well as the shuttering of Infowars contributor Paul Joseph Watson’s Facebook profile this week.

“So surprised to see Conservative thinkers like James Woods banned from Twitter, and Paul Watson banned from Facebook!” Trump tweeted.

Infowars chief Alex Jones, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos, and activist Laura Loomer were among the other incendiary characters bootedThursday from Facebook and its 

Trump and Republican members of Congress have long railed against Silicon Valley for what they claim is a perceived bias at the world’s largest tech firms against conservative viewpoints.

“The wonderful Diamond and Silk have been treated so horribly by Facebook,” the president wrote online, referring to the pro-Trump video-bloggers who have repeatedly claimed that the company is unfairly silencing them.

“They work so hard and what has been done to them is very sad – and we’re looking into,” Trump tweeted of the sisters, whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson.

“It’s getting worse and worse for Conservatives on social media!”

Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sued Twitter and three of its users in March, alleging that he was defamed and that the social media juggernaut selectively enforces its terms of service to benefit opponents of the Republican Party.

Trump last Tuesday met with with Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s co-founder and CEO, in the Oval Office — hours after the president complained online about his treatment on the platform.

“No wonder Congress wants to get involved – and they should. Must be more, and fairer, companies to get out the WORD!” Trump tweeted.

[Politico]

Trump reacts to Facebook’s “dangerous” personalities ban

President Trump reacted on Twitter to Facebook removing personalities the company deemed “dangerous” on Thursday afternoon, including Alex Jones, Laura Loomer and Louis Farrakhan.

Why this matters:Axios’ Scott Rosenberg writes, conservatives often say that social media is biased against them, but there’s no evidence to support those complaints. Social media platforms say they are trying to enforce standards of conduct and bans on hate speech.

[Axios]

Reality

Diamond and Silk simply don’t know much about technology.

President Trump pledges to get to ‘the bottom of’ alleged anti-conservative bias on social media

President Donald Trump doubled down on his words of support for conservatives on social media – a group he says has faced “big discrimination.”

“Things are happening, names are taken off, people aren’t getting through, you’ve heard the same complaints and it seems to be if they are conservative, if they’re Republicans, if they’re in a certain group there’s discrimination and big discrimination,” Trump said.

“I see it absolutely on Twitter and on Facebook which I have also and others,” Trump said during a joint press conference in the Rose Garden with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday.

“I get to see what’s going on first hand and it is not good, we use the word ‘collusion’ very loosely all the time and I will tell you there is collusion with respect to that because something has to be going on and when you get the back scene, back office statements made by executives of the various companies and you see the level of, in many cases, hatred they have for a certain group of people who happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election, you say that’s really unfair,” Trump continued. “So something’s happening with those groups of folks who are running Facebook and Google and Twitter and I do think we have to get to the bottom of it.”

Twitter says it enforces its rules “dispassionately and equally for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation.”

His comments come on the heels of a lawsuit by Rep. Devin Nunes, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who is suing political strategist Liz Mair, Twitter and two twitter accounts for negligence, defamation, insulting words and civil conspiracy.

The lawsuit was first reported by Fox News.

[ABC News]

Trump says it’s ‘very dangerous’ when Twitter, Facebook self-regulate content

President Donald Trump is again putting pressure on technology companies, telling Reuters in an interview published Monday that it’s “very dangerous” when social platforms like Twitter and Facebook self-regulate content.

“I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” Trump said.

Major social media companies have for months been responding to claims that they censor conservatives. Trump last monthcalled Twitter “discriminatory” and accused the company of “shadow banning” prominent Republicans by de-emphasizing certain accounts from search results.

Trump’s latest comments come just two weeks after big tech companies suspended or banned conservative radio host Alex Jones for violating community policies. Facebook was among the earliest to remove a post by the InfoWars host after Apple took down several of his podcasts. Twitter was later to act, but ultimately suspended Jones for a week.

Both Twitter and Facebook are private companies, giving them the legal standing to ban accounts that they say violate their guidelines or terms of service.

Representatives for the companies have appeared before Congress several times in the last year to address claims of censoring conservatives. Twitter has repeatedly said it doesn’t shadow ban, and Facebook said it doesn’t moderate content based on political beliefs.

The companies have been ramping up content moderation and hiring more human fact-checkers to rein in abuse. During the 2016 presidential election, Facebook and Twitter were both used by foreign actors, who sought to play up political divisions around social issues.

Facebook said last month it detected similar interference ahead of November’s midterm elections, and Twitter announced a purge of abusive accounts.

[CNBC]

Trump Rails on Twitter Against Conservative Social Media Censorship: ‘Too Many Voices Are Being Destroyed’

On Saturday, President Trump got on Twitter and accused social media companies of censoring conservative voices when their platforms should allow for “good and bad” speech.

Judging by the timing of these tweets, its possible Trump is defending Alex Jones after the Infowars chief conspiracy theorist was banned across social media lately for hate speech and user policy violations. Jones is known for pushing ludicrous content like the idea that the Sandy Hook massacre was a false flag operation, but then again, Trump appeared on his show in 2015, praising his “amazing reputation” in the process.

Despite the lack of evidence proving a broad-range systemic bias against conservatives, Trump and other right-wing figures have made a lot of allegations lately about shadow-banning and other forms of supposed online suppression. As it were, Trump drew a connection between this and “fake news” in order to take a new swing at the media.

Despite Trump’s remarks about preserving “good and bad” speech, its worth remembering that he regularly slams speech he doesn’t approve of and coverage that puts his administration in a negative light. Trump has called the press the “enemy of the people” with increased frequency recently, and he occasionally threatens to strip television networks of their broadcasting licenses.

Because its semi-obligatory at this point, Trump also took a shot at the “fools” focused on investigating Russia.

Oh yeah, and there was another shot at “loudmouth, partisan, political hack” John Brennan.

[Mediaite]

Trump accuses Twitter of targeting Republicans, offers no evidence

U.S. President Donald Trump accused Twitter Inc on Thursday of restricting the visibility of prominent Republicans on its platform, without providing evidence, and he promised to investigate.

“Twitter ‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once!” the Republican president wrote in a Twitter post.

The practice involves limiting the visibility of a user in search results, specifically in the auto-populated dropdown search box on Twitter.

Trump’s comments followed a Vice news report on Wednesday that Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other Republicans including Donald Trump Jr’s spokesman were being “shadow banned.”

“The notion that social media companies would suppress certain political points of view should concern every American. Twitter owes the public answers to what’s really going on,” McDaniel wrote on Twitter.

Twitter did not have a comment on Trump’s tweet but a spokesperson said the company does not “shadow ban.”

“We are aware that some accounts are not automatically populating in our search box, and we’re shipping a change to address this,” the spokesperson said in a statement.” Twitter said the technology used is based on user behavior not political views.

Twitter instituted a policy change on July 12 to increase the service’s credibility and reduce suspected fraud. That change cost its 100 most popular users about 2 percent of their followers, on average, according to social media data firm Keyhole.

The change cost former President Barack Obama 2 million followers by the morning after the change and singers Katy Perry and Justin Bieber each lost 3 million, The Washington Post reported, citing analytics company Twitter Counter.

The report said Trump’s account lost more than 200,000 of its 53 million followers.

Twitter shares, already lower in premarket trading after Facebook Inc’s disappointing earnings late Wednesday damped enthusiasm for technology and social media stocks, dipped a bit further and volume rose slightly after Trump’s tweet at 7:46 a.m. The stock was last down 3.2 percent. (Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Additional reporting by Munsif Vengattil in Bangalore; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Susan Thomas)

[USA Today]