U.S. President Donald Trump, who has weaponized social media to eviscerate opponents and promote himself, was convening a White House conference Thursday of like-minded critics of Big Tech, notably excluding representatives from the very platforms he exploits.
The meeting represented an escalation of his battle with companies like Facebook, Google and even his preferred communications outlet, Twitter. The president has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are "against me" and even suggested U.S. regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.
The high-profile White House event raised the prospect of Trump using the forum to signal tough actions ahead by his administration against big tech companies in the areas of competition and privacy.
The firms already are under closer scrutiny than ever by regulators and in Congress following a stream of scandals including Facebook's lapses opening the personal data of millions of users to Trump's 2016 campaign, and a bipartisan push for new data privacy legislation has emerged in Congress. Regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are pursuing antitrust investigations of Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon.
Trump's volley of Twitter messages Thursday had familiar targets - "certain companies," the press and his Democratic rivals - that have proven resonance with his political base. The president predicted, without foundation, the demise of the press and the social media platforms if he loses to a Democrat in 2020. He hailed himself as "so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!"
A "big subject" of the summit would be "the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies," Trump said in his tweets.
"We will not let them get away with it much longer," he said.
Among the conservative organizations expected to participate in the White House meeting are Turning Point USA, a non-profit; PragerU, short for Prager University, which puts out short videos with a conservative perspective on politics and economics; the Media Research Center and the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think-tank.