President Trump on Tuesday sharply criticized Facebook, Google and Twitter for allegedly censoring conservatives, accusing the companies of “collusion” and a “hatred they have for a certain group of people that happen to be in power, that happen to have won the election.”
In doing so, Trump also pledged repeatedly at a news conference to take a closer look at the three tech giants, their business practices and the ways they police their platforms, hours after he used his own Twitter account to accuse those companies of bias.
"Something is happening with those groups of folks that are running Facebook and Google and Twitter, and I do think we have to get to the bottom of it," Trump said. "It's collusive, and it's very, very fair to say we have to do something about it."
Trump’s latest attacks on the tech industry come a day after Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), one of the White House’s allies, said he’d filed a lawsuit against Twitter and some of its users for defamation. Nunes is seeking $250 million in damages in a complaint that alleges the company is hiding tweets from conservative-leaning users without their knowledge. Twitter long has denied that it has engaged in the tactic, called “shadow banning,” to censor users’ political beliefs.
Earlier Tuesday, Trump’s social media director, Dan Scavino, accused Facebook of “silencing” him because he was briefly unable to reply to comments posted on his page. In a statement, Facebook later pointed to a policy — meant to stop automated accounts — that prevents “repetitive automated activity” coming from one user over a short period of time. “These limits can have the unintended consequence of temporarily preventing real people like Dan Scavino from engaging in such activity, but lift in an hour or two, which is what happened in this case,” a spokesman said, apologizing for the mishap.
Still, the two incidents drew sharp criticism among conservatives, who have claimed for years that they’re being censored online. Republican lawmakers, when they ran the House, convened numerous hearings on the matter. And while tech giants have maintained that they do not single out certain users or groups because of their political leanings, the top executives at Facebook and Twitter have acknowledged that their companies tend to be liberal.
In the past, Trump has threatened regulation in response, even suggesting at one point last year that the administration could take aim at the way Google displays its search results. Larry Kudlow, the president’s top economic adviser, said during an interview aired on C-SPAN last week that tech giants including Facebook and Google also are on the White House’s radar over other issues, such as privacy. “I’m not going to give you a clear view, but I will say we are looking at it,” Kudlow said.
And Tuesday, Trump criticized Silicon Valley yet again. In response to Scavino’s comments, the president tweeted: “I will be looking into this!” Trump did not offer additional details about what he meant, and a spokeswoman did not respond to requests for comment.
Then, appearing at a news conference with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Trump claimed that his Twitter account had been targeted because “names are taken off, people aren’t getting through.” Twitter previously has said that users’ follower counts change as the company removes fraudulent accounts from the site.
"It seems to be if they're conservatives, they're Republicans, they're in a certain group, there's discrimination, there's big discrimination," Trump said.
“I get to see it firsthand what’s going on, and it’s not good,” he continued. “We use the word ‘collusion’ very loosely all the time. And I would tell you there is collusion with respect to that, because something has to be going on.”