On Tuesday morning, President Donald Trump lobbed another attack against Twitter on its own platform, calling the company “very discriminatory” and saying “they don’t treat me well as a Republican.” He then accused the company of “playing political games” and called on Congress to “get involved.” It wasn’t the first time Trump complained about a supposed anticonservative bias on Twitter, but it was noteworthy for another reason: It turns out the president was scheduled to meet Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey later that day.
Twitter policy head Vijaya Gadde notified employees Tuesday that their boss was supposed to meet with Trump in a 30-minute, closed-door meeting later that afternoon, according to a company email reviewed by WIRED.
According to the email, sent Tuesday morning Pacific time, Dorsey would be joined by Colin Crowell, Twitter’s VP of public policy, and Lauren Culbertson, a public policy manager at Twitter. “There is no set agenda, but we expect for discussion to cover the health of the public conversation on Twitter,” Gadde wrote. She also noted that Dorsey was invited to attend the meeting by the White House. A spokesperson for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy immediately returned requests for comment, but shortly after this story was published the president tweeted out a photo of the meeting, which he described as "great."
“Some of you will be very supportive of our meeting the president, and some of you might feel we shouldn’t take this meeting at all,” Dorsey wrote in a follow-up message to Gadde’s email, which was also sent to all Twitter staff. “I believe it’s important to meet heads of state in order to listen, share our principles and our ideas.”
It wasn’t Dorsey’s first trip to the White House: In 2011, he moderated a “Twitter town hall” with President Barack Obama. But while Dorsey and other Twitter staff reportedly have met with conservative leaders in recent months, the CEO hadn’t yet met with Trump—at least not publicly. In 2016, Trump held a meeting with tech leaders including Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, but Dorsey was reportedly not invited.
In her email, Gadde noted that Dorsey also has recently met with heads of state from India, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. But no world leader has perhaps been as critical of the company as Trump, who has long accused Twitter of political bias. In one October Tweet, he accused Twitter of removing “many people from my account.” Last July, he accused the platform of “‘SHADOW BANNING’ prominent Republicans,” or purposely hiding content from right-leaning accounts. “To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgments based on political views or the substance of tweets,” a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement at the time. The company has been cracking down on spam accounts and implementing other initiatives to improve the “health” of the platform over the past year.
Despite all his criticisms, the president has continued to favor Twitter as the primary platform to spread both opinions and information about his administration. And after his meeting with Dorsey, Trump tweeted, "Look forward to keeping an open dialogue!" Both Gadde and Dorsey said in their emails that they would report back to their company about what happens during the meeting at the White House.
After the meeting took place, a Twitter spokesperson said in a statement that Dorsey and Trump "discussed Twitter’s commitment to protecting the health of the public conversation ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections and efforts underway to respond to the opioid crisis."
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Update 4-23-19, 5:10 pm EDT: This story has been updated with Trump's tweet about meeting with Dorsey Tuesday afternoon.
Update 4-23-19, 6:32 pm EDT: This story has been updated with Twitter's statement.