Melania Trump will meet with tech giants to talk cyberbullying

Trump plans to convene tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snap to discuss ways to combat online harassment and promote Internet safety.


First lady Melania Trump plans to convene tech giants including Amazon, Facebook, Google, Twitter and Snap next week to discuss ways to combat online harassment and promote Internet safety, according to four people familiar with her efforts. 

The meeting at the White House, slated for March 20, marks the first major policy push in the first lady's long-ago announced campaign to combat cyberbullying. At the gathering, Trump plans to ask top policy executives from tech giants to detail how they've sought to address digital ills plaguing web users such as the rise of online trolls and the spread of malicious content, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss her efforts on the record. 

But the people said they don't expect the first lady to unveil any specific policy proposals to combat cyberbullying — a phrase her team has sought to avoid, instead opting to focus on the need for kindness online. 

A spokeswoman for the first lady did not respond to an email seeking comment Tuesday. 

In recent months, companies like Facebook, Google and Twitter have faced criticism for allowing the spread of hate, harassment, conspiracy theories and other toxic content on their platforms. After the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, for example, videos attacking the victims proliferated wildly on YouTube, aided by algorithms that surface similar videos on a loop. 

Others fault President Donald Trump for contributing to the lack of civility online, particularly through his tweets attacking opponents. Some of his most popular tweets in 2017 — garnering hundreds of thousands of replies, likes or retweets among his roughly 49 million followers — involved rhetorical broadsides aimed at North Korea and CNN. 

For her part, Melania Trump first pledged to highlight and fight cyberbullying in November 2016, days before her husband won the White House. At the time, she lamented the fact that "our culture has gotten too mean and too rough especially to children and to teenagers." 

Following the inauguration, however, the first lady addressed cyberbullying only in a few public settings. That includes a high-profile address at the United Nations in September 2017, where she emphasized the need to "teach each child the values of empathy and communication that are at the core of kindness, mindfulness, integrity, and leadership, which can only be taught by example." 

More recently, Trump appeared to be telegraphing a policy push to come: She hired new aides, including a director of policy, in January. But the first lady publicly returned to the issue of cyberbullying last month in the wake of the Parkland shooting. 

In February, student Lauren Hogg tweeted Melania Trump to express frustration that Trump's stepson, Donald Trump Jr., had liked tweets suggesting that survivors of the attack had been coached to speak to media and cover for the FBI. Days later, during her speech praising the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Trump spoke about the need for more civility online and the importance of "positive habits with social media and technology." 

For its part, Silicon Valley has struggled to combat abuse and harassment online. In a study from the Pew Research Center last year, for example, 41 percent of Americans said they had personally experienced some form of harassment on the web — for myriad reasons including their gender, ethnicity or physical appearance. 

Along with representatives from Amazon, Facebook, Google, Snap and Twitter at the first lady's meeting will be top aides from Microsoft and the Internet Association, a lobbying organization for Silicon Valley, as well as consumer groups, the people said. Each of these companies did not respond to emails seeking comment or declined to comment on Tuesday.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Politics

Election profile: Down in the polls, Renacci’s colleagues say he’s used to uphill battles
Election profile: Down in the polls, Renacci’s colleagues say he’s used to uphill battles

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci arrived in Congress in 2010 with a goal: He wanted to get on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which writes the nation’s tax laws. One of the few CPAs in Congress, he felt he had the expertise. But he was told he was too new, to let it go. He couldn’t. So every week, Renacci, now Sen. Sherrod Brown&rsquo...
Election profile:  Sen. Brown uses connections to win over those who think he’s ‘ruthless’ progressive
Election profile:  Sen. Brown uses connections to win over those who think he’s ‘ruthless’ progressive

After a recent appearance on MSNBC’s Hardball, a reporter asked Sen. Sherrod Brown about a Mediterranean restaurant in Dayton. Brown reached for his IPhone and left Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley a voice mail: “Why haven’t you ever told me about this great restaurant?” Acquaintances say that is vintage Brown: scribbling notes, calling...
Miami County leaders willing to pay share of new voting machines
Miami County leaders willing to pay share of new voting machines

TROY – The Miami County commissioners told Board of Elections representatives they are willing to spend more than the $1,096,490 the state has allocated for new voting machines that are the best for the county’s voters and for the elections staff. The commissioners met Wednesday with elections Director Beverly Kendall and board member Ryan...
Lawsuit filed against bureau once headed by Cordray day after Dayton debate
Lawsuit filed against bureau once headed by Cordray day after Dayton debate

In a move which could impact the governor’s race between Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray, two employees of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have charged they were discriminated against by officials of the bureau once headed by Cordray. The lawsuit charges that the consumer bureau “maintains a biased culture...
Watch the full Ohio governor’s debate in Dayton
Watch the full Ohio governor’s debate in Dayton

The first Ohio governor’s debate, held Sept. 19 at the University of Dayton, featured a fiery face-off between candidates Mike DeWine and Richard Cordray.  You can watch the full debate in the video above, or you can watch it on your streaming device (like Roku, Amazon Fire or Apple TV).
More Stories