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The Trump administration’s “social media summit” was almost a microcosm of what it’s like to be online in Trump’s Washington these days. It was jam-packed with the kind of is-this-really-happening moments that felt like a Twitter feed come to life.
Memes were created in real time: Large posters of some of President Trump’s most famous tweets were placed on stands. My colleague Philip Bump spotted a tweet about the president’s “covfefe” typo next to the bust of Abraham Lincoln.
— Philip Bump (@pbump) July 12, 2019
And Trump, without a 280-character limit yesterday, gave wide-ranging remarks that were made-for-viral moments. In addition to blasting the tech companies, he had colorful ways to describe his favorite tweets (“It’d be like a rocket ship when I put out a beauty”) and compared Twitter to a typewriter. He veered from talking about the weather on his Fourth of July celebration (“They learned it was my real hair that day because I was drenched”) to criticizing former California governor and actor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on “The Apprentice.”
And the feuds that might otherwise take place online happened live as a wide cast of the president’s controversial supporters, known for generating sometimes misleading or conspiratorial posts supporting Trump, gathered at the White House. Before everyone went home, a brawl broke out in the Rose Garden, as former White House official and conservative media personality Sebastian Gorka yelled at Playboy Magazine’s Brian Karem. “You’re not a journalist, you’re a punk,” Gorka shouted:
But beyond the circus-like atmosphere of the event, the conference had serious implications for Silicon Valley. It highlighted how the president’s attacks on Big Tech are creating more political jeopardy for the tech companies in Washington.
As my colleague Tony Romm wrote, “the conference represented [Trump’s] highest-profile broadside against Silicon Valley after months of accusations that tech giants censor conservative users and websites.”
Though the companies have repeatedly denied these claims, multiple attendees exiting the event told Tony that congressional Republicans appear poised to act. So what’s next? Here’s what we’re tracking:
1. The White House says more scrutiny is on the way. The tech companies weren’t at the White House yesterday, but Trump says the White House will have an event with them soon — and that their presence would be required. He also issued the following directive to his administration:
Today, I am directing my Administration to explore all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect the free speech rights of ALL AMERICANS. We hope to see more transparency, more accountability, and more FREEDOM! #SocialMediaSummit https://t.co/i6th5qtfAj
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 11, 2019
2. Congressional Republicans’ efforts might start with Sen. Marsha Blackburn, Tony reports. The Tennessee Republican said she’s moving ahead with a task force to study tech giants and “find answers to the issues of privacy and data security” as well as competition, as she detailed in a later interview with Tony.