Jul 8, 2019

Trump turns on Twitter

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

After fueling allegations that Twitter and other social platforms censor conservatives, President Trump is now calling on Congress to pass legislation that would target some of the world's largest social media companies, and has suggested that those companies be sued for illegal activity.

Why it matters: This is a departure from Trump's attitude after he was elected. Trump told Axios he would be reluctant to regulate social platforms, because they made it easier for him to reach Americans in an unfiltered way.

Trump told Fox Business' Maria Bartiromo that "you may need legislation in order to create competition" for Twitter.

  • Trump told Bartiromo that Twitter "should be sued because what's happening with the bias."
  • He repeated that in an interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson, and said Twitter has engaged in "possible illegal" activity.

He also suggested that U.S. regulators should be the ones to sue Google and Facebook, not European regulators.

Between the lines: Despite increasing his Twitter follower count by nearly 5x since he was elected, Trump now says that he sees Twitter as a threat to his ability to communicate.

  • "You know, I have millions and millions of followers but I will tell you, they make it very hard for people to join me in Twitter, and they make it very much harder for me to get out the message," he told Bartiromo.
  • Trump's personal Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, now has over 60 million followers. He had 12.9 million in November of 2016.

The big picture: The president has gone from bullying the press to targeting a variety of information gatekeepers, including big tech.

  • The White House will host a Presidential Social Media Summit with "digital leaders" on Thursday. It has quietly invited tech’s top conservative critics in politics and media to attend, according to the WashPost.
  • Last month, the White House launched a tool last month allowing any U.S. citizen to complain of being censored by a social-media platform.

Go deeper

Twitter hit with widespread outage

Screenshot: Axios

Twitter was the latest big tech company to be hit with a major outage, going offline for more than an hour Thursday afternoon.

Why it matters: It's exactly the kind of thing we'd all be tweeting about — you know, if Twitter weren't down.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Jul 11, 2019

Trump's social-media grievance group

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump's plans to stoke conservative grievances about social media are part of a larger strategy to fan the us-vs.-them theme of his 2020 campaign. 

The big picture: The issue of tech companies being biased against conservatives is one of the hottest subjects among the Republican Party’s online base, per Axios' Jonathan Swan.

Go deeperArrowJul 10, 2019

White House summit spotlights right's new split on tech

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The White House's Thursday "social media summit," gathering conservative critics of social media platforms, will also highlight how Trump-era politics have split the right on tech issues.

Why it matters: As with trade, tech is an area where Trump's ascendancy has scrambled traditional power dynamics and policy positions. Free-market thinkers who drove the conservative side of the conversation for years have lost ground to social media personalities who are more open to government intervention against Big Tech — and have the ear of people in power.

Go deeperArrowJul 9, 2019