Attendee of President Trump’s Social Media Complaint Fest Speaks Out
President Donald Trump used a self-proclaimed social media summit at the White House on Thursday to sound off against his perceived enemies: Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, who he says are biased against conservatives despite their huge role in amplifying his message.
The audience, made up of around 250 of his biggest supporters on social media, lapped the President's complaints. The fact that Trump has 61.9 million followers on Twitter and has yet to prove any bias didn't seem to matter.
"As the social media president, he has every right to talk about these things," Rob Bluey, vice president of communications at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, told Fortune. Bluey was one of the attendees at the summit.
Trump kicked off the event with remarks to the media before it became a closed-door session. The president announced plans for a "big meeting" with social media companies that will happen "in a week or two" and that "they have to be there."
Twitter, which, like other social media companies, was not invited to Thursday's event, declined to comment about the possible meeting. Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“We’re not going to be silenced,” Trump said in response to his follower count. “Big tech must not censor the voices.”
After the media left, Bluey says the event included a few discussions, notably a panel with conservative social media personalities Diamond & Silk and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway.
President Trump then took around 10 questions from the audience, Bluey says, however there were "no surprises."
Those questions "followed pretty closely with the sentiment of his remarks," he says. Some were related to doing a better job of amplifying other conservative voices."
President Trump often repeats the debunked claim that Twitter is unfairly censoring people from following him. When asked whether The Heritage Foundation believes this is the case, Bluey says he isn't sure.
"I don't know that I have enough information to make an accurate assessment to be honest. One of the challenges is conservatives aren't the only ones complaining about social media bias," he says. "There are people on the left who have complained as well."
The event has also been criticized for bringing right-wing trolls to the White House. Carpe Donktum, a conservative meme creator who describes himself as "Eternally Sarcastic Memesmith specializing in the creation of memes to support President Donald J. Trump," was one of the attendees.
"They may have been there, but the room was packed," Bluey says.
The Heritage Foundation sent five representatives to the event. While the theme was discussing issues with the social media giants, Bluey says the afternoon also felt like an opportunity to recognize the attendees as active participants on social media.
"Part of it was recognizing the enormous influence of people there," he says, adding that the White House noted that the attendees had half a billion followers among them.
As for whether the companies being blasted should have been in the room, Bluey says it would have been difficult to have a substantive conversation with them, since there were so many attendees.
"I think the format….250 people is a difficult setting in a room with that many people to have a dialogue with the companies," he says, adding that he thought the "White House handled it well."
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