WASHINGTON, D.C—President Donald Trump’s rhetorical attacks on major social media platforms represent a threat of government censorship irreconcilable with the U.S. Constitution, and reflect the administration’s ongoing assault on the truth, PEN America said today.

On Tuesday, August 28, President Trump tweeted that Google results for the phrase “Trump News” were “RIGGED.” Trump’s tweet went on to say “Illegal? . . . This is a very serious situation-will be addressed!” Later in the day, the president widened his complaint to other digital media platforms, saying in an Oval Office press meeting that “Google and Twitter and Facebook, they’re really treading on very, very troubled territory.” Trump’s top economic advisor, Larry Kudlow, responded to reporters’ questions on Tuesday by saying that the White House is “taking a look” at the issue of potential regulation for Google.

“This demand for action against tech companies, based solely on the president’s displeasure that the news results prioritized by their algorithms are insufficiently complimentary to him, is a deeply inappropriate threat of government interference in what information is available online,” said PEN America’s Washington Director, Thomas O. Melia. “At a time when organizations like ours are expressing concern about Google possibly offering its search in China because of the potential for government censorship of search results, it is painfully ironic to see the president of the United States threaten to interfere in Google’s operations in a similar way. This also represents a new line of attack in the administration’s alarming campaign to undermine independent news organizations the president peevishly describes as ‘fake’ purely on the basis of coverage he finds unflattering, and regardless of the truth of their reporting.”

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PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. pen.org

CONTACT: Anoosh Gasparian, External Relations Manager: agasparian@pen.org