Twitter ditched from tech meet with Donald Trump over #CrookedHillary emoji - report

Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Larry Page of Alphabet, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg , Vice-President elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower Dec 14, 2016.
Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, Larry Page of Alphabet, Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg , Vice-President elect Mike Pence and President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower Dec 14, 2016.PHOTO: AFP

Twitter was left out of a meeting between tech executives and President-elect Donald Trump because it refused to allow an emoji version of the hashtag #CrookedHillary during the US election campaign, according to media reports.

Trump met some of America's most powerful tech executives at Trump Tower on Wednesday (Dec 14) to smooth over frictions after both sides made no secret of their disdain for each other during the campaign.

But Twitter - which played a big role in Trump’s ability to speak directly to millions of voters during the campaign - was noticeably absent.

A report in Politico quoting a source said the social media company was "bounced" from the meeting over Twitter chief Jack Dorsey's role in rejecting the anti-Hillary Clinton emoji — a rejection that brought public complaints from the president-elect's campaign.

However, a spokesman for Trump's transition team later said Twitter was left out because it is too small, Reuters reported. “They weren’t invited because they aren’t big enough,” the transition official said.

With a market capitalization of US$13.85 billion (S$20 billion), Twitter is smaller than Facebook and Amazon, companies that were included in the meeting in New York, which was attended by, among others, Apple's Tim Cook, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg, and Tesla's Elon Musk.

During the Obama administration, Twitter was a regular participant in meetings meant to address technology concerns, especially given its use by groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and the ease with which the site is used for online bullying.

The omission of Twitter from the meeting surprised some in the industry given Trump’s prolific use of the social media platform, Reuters said.  Trump leveraged his sizeable following on Twitter - he currently has 17.3 million followers - to circumvent traditional media to speak directly to the public and to bash his opponents.

At the height of the election campaign, Republican Trump was attacking Democratic contender Clinton as "crooked", so he wanted the social network to create a "Crooked Hillary" emoji.

The Trump campaign proposed a US$5 million deal to do so, Politico said, but Twitter rejected the idea.

The character would have depicted money bags being stolen or given away, according to the report.

Politico's unnamed source  said that Republican National Committee spokesman Sean Spicer, who is an adviser to the Trump transition, had made the call to deny an invitation to Twitter's Dorsey. The summit was organised by Facebook board member and tech billionaire Peter Thiel, who has been a vocal backer of Trump.

Spicer rejected that in a Wednesday afternoon appearance on MSNBC, denying he made the a decision and saying Twitter's absence was not an "intentional slight" of the company.

"The conference table was only so big," Spicer said. "There was a lot of companies and if you go down the list of the top tech companies, I guarantee you you'll find additional ones that weren't there."

Politico said Wednesday's meeting included tech executives who have previously been the target of public beefs from Trump.

He has criticised Cook over Apple's refusal to decrypt a cellphone used by one of the gunmen in last December's terrorist-inspired mass shooting in California, for example, and Bezos over his ownership of The Washington Post, it said.