President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to accuse social media companies of "totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices," a notion that's picked up steam among some on the right during the past year.
"Speaking loudly and clearly for the Trump Administration, we won't let that happen," Trump tweeted. "They are closing down the opinions of many people on the RIGHT, while at the same time doing nothing to others."
Trump's series of tweets follows the high-profile banning this month of far-right conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones from several major tech platforms, including Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, iTunes and Spotify. The companies behind those platforms say Jones violated their policies concerning hate speech and incitement of violence.
Twitter, one of the most recent companies to take action against Jones, banned him from tweeting for a week after a post that linked to a video in which he told viewers to "have their battle rifles" ready. The remark came amid statements like "mainstream media is the enemy" and "now it's time to act on the enemy" and references to antifa, a term for far-left anti-fascist militant groups.
Last week, after Apple removed Infowars podcasts from iTunes, Jones asked Trump to emphasize censorship during the runup to the midterm elections. He also asked Trump, who's appeared on Infowars, to "point out that the communist Chinese … are way, way worse than the Russians." Trump quickly followed his Saturday tweets about alleged censorship with a tweet saying the "fools" focused on Russia should also look at China.
The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Trump's tweets also come amid more general concern among some conservatives about perceived bias on the part of social media and tech companies.
In April, Republican lawmakers questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the internet-famous pro-Trump duo Diamond and Silk. The pair had accused the social network of using algorithms and other methods to suppress their Facebook page. The company said site-wide changes that affected all users were responsible for any dip in traffic to the duo's page.
In May, the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee sent a letter to Zuckerberg and to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey that said the companies "operate in liberal corporate cultures" but that "rampant political bias is inappropriate for a widely used public forum." And in July, Trump accused Twitter of "shadow banning" leading Republicans, or limiting their visibility in its search results. Twitter said the search blip was the result of a programming bug.
On Friday, Dorsey admitted Twitter's culture comes down on the left side of the political spectrum, but he said that didn't affect the way the company oversees its website.
"I think we need to constantly show that we are not adding our own bias, which I fully admit is left, is more left-leaning," Dorsey told CNN. "Are we doing something according to political ideology or viewpoints? We are not. Period. We do not look at content with regards to political viewpoint or ideology. We look at behavior."
In July, executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter made similar remarks about how the companies oversee their platforms. Fielding questions at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on the firms' content-filtering practices, the executives said the companies don't censor political views but that they sometimes make mistakes when trying to enforce policies around hate speech, harassment and other issues.
These tech giants walk a fine line. They've also been criticized for not cracking down on fake news that lands on their platforms, and for allowing their sites to be exploited by Russia-backed propagandists looking to sow discord during the 2016 US presidential election. And they were initially criticized for not acting against Jones and Infowars.
Last month, before it suspended Jones for violating its community standards, Facebook was asked why he was still on the social network. "We just don't think banning pages for sharing conspiracy theories or false news is the right way to go," the company said. Facebook said it "should not be the arbiter of truth."
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