US President Donald Trump has used a White House conference to applaud far-right social media provocateurs even as he conceded that some of them are extreme in their views.
Trump, who has weaponised social media to eviscerate opponents and promote himself, led a "social media summit" of like-minded critics of Big Tech, excluding representatives from the very platforms he exploits.
The President used the event to air grievances over his treatment by Big Tech, but also to praise some of the most caustic voices on the right, who help energise Trump's political base.
"Some of you guys are out there," he told them. "I mean it's genius, but it's bad."
Trump singled out for praise James O'Keefe, the right-wing activist whose Project Veritas organisation once tried to plant a false story in The Washington Post. In May 2010, O'Keefe and three others pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanour in a scheme in which they posed as telephone repairmen in Senator Mary Landrieu's New Orleans district office.
"He's not controversial, he's truthful," Trump insisted of O'Keefe.
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Playing to the friendly crowd in the East Room, Trump was at ease, joking about everything from his spelling in tweets (blaming his thumbs, not his brain, for any mistakes) to his hair (saying the rainy weather at his July 4 outdoor speech at least proved his hair was real).
"With amazing creativity and determination, you are bypassing the corrupt establishment, and it is corrupt," Trump said. "And you're bypassing the very, very corrupt media."
In lengthy remarks, he said: "You're challenging the media gatekeepers and corporate censors to bring the truth to the American people. ... You communicate directly with our citizens without going through the fake news filter."
Others invited to the summit included pro-Trump internet broadcaster Bill Mitchell, researcher Brent Bozell - who reportedly once said Barack Obama looked like a "skinny ghetto crackhead", Benny Johnson - a journalist fired from Buzzfeed for plagiarism, and Tim Pool - who claimed parts of Sweden are no-go areas due to immigration.
Cartoonist Ben Garrison was invited then uninvited after officials realised he'd drawn anti-Semetic cartoons.
Trump tweet storm
Earlier Thursday, Trump sent a stream of Twitter messages lashing out at social media companies and the press, familiar targets that resonate with his conservative base.
"The Fake News is not as important, or as powerful, as Social Media," he wrote on Twitter.
"They have lost tremendous credibility since that day in November, 2016, that I came down the escalator with the person who was to become your future First Lady. When I ultimately leave office in six... years, or maybe 10 or 14 (just kidding), they will quickly go out of business for lack of credibility, or approval, from the public.
"That's why they will all be Endorsing me at some point, one way or the other. Could you imagine having Sleepy Joe Biden, or Alfred E. Newman or a very nervous and skinny version of Pocahontas (1/1024th), as your President, rather than what you have now, so great looking and smart, a true Stable Genius!
"Sorry to say that even Social Media would be driven out of business along with, and finally, the Fake News Media!"
The meeting represented an escalation of Trump's battle with companies like Facebook, Google and even his preferred communications outlet, Twitter, where he has an estimated 61 million followers. The President has claimed, without evidence, that the companies are "against me" and even suggested US regulators should sue them on grounds of anti-conservative bias.
He announced on Thursday that he is directing his administration to explore "all regulatory and legislative solutions to protect free speech and the free-speech rights of all Americans."
And Trump said he is inviting executives from major social media platforms to join him at the White House over the next month or so.
Reuters / Newshub.