By David Shepardson and Elizabeth Culliford
WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – President Donald Trump plans to meet with prominent conservative social media figures on Thursday at a White House forum where he is set to reiterate frustrations with big tech firms for allegedly suppressing conservative voices.
Pro-Trump online personalities will get together at what the White House billed as a gathering of “digital leaders” where invitees expect to discuss what they say is censorship on social media platforms.
Facebook Inc said it had not been invited while Twitter Inc and Reddit declined to comment. Alphabet Inc’s Google did not respond to requests for comment.
Carpe Donktum, who was recently suspended by Twitter for eight days over a video depicting Trump as a cowboy attacking CNN journalist Jim Acosta, said the face-to-face event could unite online conservatives.
Invitees said they had received little information about the event but in a statement to Reuters, the White House positioned it as 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.
Republicans in Congress have held numerous hearings on the issue of alleged conservative bias on social media outlets. A Senate panel chaired by Republican Ted Cruz on Tuesday will hold a hearing titled “Google and Censorship through Search Engines” featuring Google’s vice president of public policy Karan Bhatia.
Some who will be attending saw it as more of a political gesture than a policy discussion.
The White House spokesman said Trump would deliver remarks and that about 130 people would attend, without providing a guest list.
Trump made social media a key part of his 2016 presidential campaign but he and other Republicans have long claimed that online platforms employ tactics to silence their voices, allegations that major social media companies have denied.
When Trump, who has more than 61 million Twitter followers, met with the site’s chief executive, Jack Dorsey, in April, he spent significant time asking why he had lost followers, a source told Reuters.
(Reporting by David Shepardson and Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Chris Reese)