July 12, 2019

Trump excludes, targets social media and press at unconventional summit

As the US election season approaches, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is concerned by the unsubstantiated and misleading accusations of anti-conservative bias and the continuing diatribe against the “mainstream media” made during President Donald Trump’s Social Media Summit on July 11. RSF reminds the President that a slandering of the press cannot bring about press freedom.

In contrast with the summit’s name, social media companies Google, Facebook, and Twitter were excluded from the closed-door event. Instead, President Trump invited members of far-right groups, conspiracy theorists, activists and conservative politicians, among others.


The President’s strange Social Media Summit is a distraction from the very serious issues of online misinformation and disinformation. It amplifies the unsubstantiated rhetoric of anti-conservative bias from social media companies in the run-up to the 2020 elections. This is both alarming and dangerous, as a potential foreshadowing of the scale political untruths might take during election season,” said Sabine Dolan, RSF North America interim Executive Director.


The summit comes less than a week after a court ruling determined that President Donald Trump, known for his prolific use of Twitter, cannot block critics on his Twitter account since it is considered a “public forum” where citizens have a right to engage, similar to their right to attend a town hall. 


While the president, who recently suggested Twitter should be sued, boasted of his large following, he also denounced the company for curbing his engagement numbers. In May, the White House launched a website to collect the views of internet users who felt they had been the victims of political bias and censorship on social media sites. The page has since been closed.


In closing, the President said he would ask representatives of major social media to join the White House over the next month for meetings and further discussions. 


The United States ranks 48 out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index after dropping three places from its previous ranking.