Sponsor of anti-tech bill slated for speaking slot at White House social media summit

President Donald Trump’s gathering of Silicon Valley critics Thursday is poised to include remarks by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who is sponsoring legislation that would strip away tech giants’ immunity for online content, according to two sources familiar with plans for the event.

Trump has not publicly endorsed Hawley’s bill, which has drawn opposition from some conservative Republicans who call it a threat to the free marketplace of ideas. But giving a speaking slot to the Missouri Republican could raise the profile of the legislation at a time when Silicon Valley is under fire from politicians in both parties.

The White House didn’t immediately comment on Hawley’s involvement in the summit, which is expected to focus on allegations that tech giants stifle conservative voices.

Since entering the Senate, Hawley has emerged as one of the chamber’s most outspoken critics of Silicon Valley giants.

His bill would rewrite a key law, Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which has allowed companies like Facebook, Google, Twitter and myriad other online sites to avoid lawsuits over content posted by their users. Hawley’s proposal would require the largest platforms to prove they’re “politically neutral” in order to keep the prized liability shield.

Trump tweeted earlier Thursday that a “big subject” at the session “will be the tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies.” He didn’t call out any companies by name, but Trump has repeatedly bashed Google, Twitter and Facebook and raised the specter of government action against the companies.

“You may need legislation in order to create competition” in the tech sector, Trump told Fox Business last month.

Hawley joins fellow industry skeptic Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) as among the officials poised to take part. Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), another lawmaker who has hammered tech firms over accusations that they stifle conservatives, also received an invitation to the summit, according a spokeperson, who declined to say whether he’ll in fact attend.

A number of right-wing online personalities and pro-Trump activists are slated to attend, including some who have made racially divisive remarks or promoted conspiracy theories. The cast of expected attendees has brought condemnation from critics such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said the administration is “essentially conducting a hate summit at the White House.”

Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine


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