Critics on Thursday slammed US President Donald Trump’s “social media summit” that includes several far-right and other conservative figures, but not major social media companies, including Google, Twitter and Facebook.
“The Trump administration’s social media summit is a gathering of groups and individuals who have no business at the White House,” said Heidi Beirich, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based watchdog.
Although the White House has not released the official list of participants, some prominent social media personalities have boasted about their invitations online.
This includes Bill Mitchell, who has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theories on Twitter and spread false accusations against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.
Ali Alexander, an activist, also said he is attending. Alexander tweeted during the Democratic presidential debate earlier this month that candidate and Senator Kamala Harris was “not an American black”. That tweet was then retweeted by Donald Trump Jr, who later deleted the retweet. Harris experienced a slew of racists comments following the tweets.
Tim Pool, a YouTube video journalist, said in a video he was also invited. Pool has amplified claims that conservative media endure persecution and bias at the hands of tech companies.
Also reportedly attending are James O’Keefe, who founded Project Veritas, a far-right organisation known for crossing the ethical line while doing undercover work, and Benny Johnson, who was fired from Buzzfeed for plagiarism.
Johnson is now part of Turning Point USA, a right-wing student group. Turning Point USA’s founder Charlie Kirk also said he was attending.
Among the other conservative organisations expected to participate were PragerU, short for Prager University, which puts out short videos with a conservative perspective on politics and economics and the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think-tank.
For years we’ve watched social media serve as a gateway to radicalisation and, far too often, real-life violence. Bringing these groups together is beyond irresponsible; it is essentially conducting a hate summit at the White House.
HEIDI BEIRICH, SPLC
Invitees said they had received little information about the event but in a statement to Reuters News Agency, the White House positioned it as a follow-up to an online survey launched by the administration in May for people to report “suspected political bias” on social media.
“After receiving thousands of responses, the president wants to engage directly with these digital leaders in a discussion on the power of social media,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
The SPLC’s Beirich said calling such individuals “digital leaders” only “legitimises the hateful rhetoric they spread online”.