The White House has confirmed reports that President Trump spent much of his Tuesday meeting with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey complaining about losing social media followers.
“They had a very productive conversation about keeping the media platforms open for 2020,” said adviser Kellyanne Conway Wednesday morning. “The president is very concerned about what he sees as losing followers or people being blocked for certain actions. That’s obvious.”
Conway’s comments confirm reporting from the Washington Post about the meeting.
“A significant portion of the meeting focused on Trump’s concerns that Twitter quietly, and deliberately, has limited or removed some of his followers, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation who requested anonymity because it was private,” read the Post report.
Per the Post, Dorsey explained to the president that the number of followers fluctuates due to the company’s attempts to delete spam accounts and bots. Trump, who has nearly 60 million followers on the service, complained about losing followers back in October after Twitter purged a number of suspended accounts, resulting in a decline of followers across the political spectrum, with Trump losing 200,000 and former President Barack Obama losing 2 million.
Obama has 106 million followers as of today. According to The Daily Beast, Trump has repeatedly complained that the former president “has had more Twitter followers than [Trump] has, even though—by Trump’s own assessment—he is so much better at Twitter than Obama is.”
Twitter has consistently denied that it pares accounts for political or ideological reasons. Trump appears to view his Twitter following as a measure of his popularity, whether or not it constitutes actual people.
Trump has previously floated the idea of investigations into big tech companies including Facebook, Amazon and Google. Republicans have accused Twitter of having a bias against conservatives, including at a congressional hearing attended by Dorsey last year.
There has been a push from some corners for Dorsey to remove the @RealDonaldTrump account from the platform, citing his attacks on everyone from Indiana labor leaders to Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., as a violation of the company’s anti-harassment policy. Twitter said last month it would not remove tweets that were in the public interest but would begin flagging messages that violated its terms of service. In an interview with HuffPost in January, Dorsey declined to say if he would kick Trump off the platform if, hypothetically, the president tweeted a call for his followers to commit murder. But “we’d certainly talk about it,” he said.
Dorsey’s judgments have occasionally been controversial. After Twitter’s temporary decision to allow far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones to remain on its platform, Dorsey told one person that he had overruled a decision by his staff to kick Jones off, according to a person familiar with the discussion. Twitter disputes that account and says Dorsey wasn’t involved in those decisions. Jones is currently being sued for defamation by the parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims. He has previously settled a lawsuit with the yogurt company Chobani (for propagating a conspiracy theory that it was responsible for a nonexistent wave of refugee crime in Twin Falls, Idaho) and apologized for his role in promoting the Pizzagate conspiracy after a man who said he was inspired by Jones fired shots in a Washington, D.C., restaurant.
In September, Twitter finally did ban Jones.
The company has also declined to commit to banning accounts promoting white nationalism after Facebook did so.