President Donald Trump on Friday threatened to "monitor" social-media sites for their "censorship of AMERICAN CITIZENS," a day after Facebook permanently banned far-right figures and organisations including the conspiracy theory site InfoWars.
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Trump's subtle threat - delivered in a series of tweets - marked the president's latest broadside against Silicon Valley, which he has repeatedly accused of unfairly targeting and removing conservative users and their views. Facebook, Google and Twitter strongly deny the allegations of political bias.
Facebook and the White House did not respond to a request for comment. The First Amendment pertains to government regulation of speech, not tech giants' efforts to craft and implement their own policies that seek to prevent harassment and abuse online.
On Thursday, Facebook announced it had permanently banned users including Louis Farrakhan, the founder of the Nation of Islam who has been accused of anti-Semitism, along with far-right figures Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer and Alex Jones, the founder of Infowars. The tech giant removed their accounts, fan pages and affiliated groups on Facebook as well as its photo-sharing service Instagram, charging that their presence on the social networking sites had become "dangerous."
In doing so, Facebook pointed to its efforts to remove users who "promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology." Before its permanent ban, Facebook had taken more limited action targeting users such as Jones, who has threatened journalists and attacked the victims of the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Jones and others sharply criticised Facebook for its decision.
For his part, President Trump repeatedly has accused popular social-networking sites of exhibiting political bias, and threatened to regulate Silicon Valley in response. In a private meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last month, Trump repeatedly raised his concerns that the company has removed some of his followers, the Post previously reported. Twitter long has maintained that a user's follower accounts fluctuate in response to its efforts to combat spam on the site and are not politically motivated.
On Friday, Trump specifically tweeted he was "surprised" about Facebook's decision to ban Paul Joseph Watson, a far-right YouTube personality who has served as editor-at-large of Infowars.
He also said his administration is "looking into" Facebook's handling of Diamond and Silk, two pro-Trump video bloggers who have charged that the social-networking site has limited the reach of their content. Facebook initially labeled their videos as "unsafe," though it later apologised for the incident and said last year it tried repeatedly to work with the duo to address their concerns.
Still, the attacks have resonated among the upper echelons of the Republican Party, even prompting GOP lawmakers to hold a series of hearings over the past two years to probe if Silicon Valley censors right-leaning users and news. Earlier Friday, the president's son, Donald Trump Jr., fired off his own tweet that appeared to criticise Facebook for removing far-right users.