White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre faced new criticism Monday for saying that the Biden administration is “keeping a close eye” on Elon Musk‘s newly acquired Twitter over concerns about the spread of “misinformation” and incitement to violence on the platform.
Her comments at a press briefing were sparked by a question from Reuters’ Andrea Shalal, who asked about Twitter becoming a “vector of misinformation.” Shalal wondered what “tools” the administration has and who at the White House is monitoring Twitter.
“This is something that we’re certainly keeping an eye on,” Jean-Pierre said. “Look, we have always been very clear that when it comes to social media platforms it is their responsibility to make sure that when it comes to misinformation, when it comes to the hate that we’re seeing, that they take action, that they continue to take action. Again, we’re all keeping a close eye on this.”
She continued, “We’re all monitoring what’s currently occurring. We see it with our own eyes of what you all are reporting and just for ourselves what is happening on Twitter.”
“But again, social media companies have a responsibility to prevent their platforms from being used by any user to incite violence especially violence directed at individual communities as we have been seeing and the president has been very clear on calling that out. He’ll continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to monitor the situation,” Jean-Pierre concluded.
Social media users quickly zeroed in on the press secretary “ominous” statement about the administration “keeping a close eye on” Twitter.
Bryan Dean Wright, a conservative commentator and former CIA officer, tweeted, “These are the words of a regime. Not a republic.”
The House Judiciary GOP tweeted, “Why is the Biden White House scared of the First Amendment and @Elon Musk?”
Ilya Shapiro, director of constitutional studies at the Manhattan Institute, said Jean-Pierre’s comments likely violated the Bill of Rights.
“That statement sounds ominous and is likely a First Amendment violation in and of itself,” Shapiro tweeted.
James Hirsen, a New York Times bestselling author and attorney, encouraged the Biden administration to “Keep an eye on the border,” instead of Musk’s social media platform.
“This is a really weird thing for a White House press secretary to say about a company against which there are no criminal allegations,” Isaac Schorr, a National Review reporter, tweeted.
Tim Young, a conservative author and comedian, tweeted, “The White House hates free speech.”
Bret Weinstein, an evolutionary biologist and former Evergreen State College professor who rose to prominence in 2017 after he refused to partake in the college’s “Day of Absence” for White people, also suggested that the Biden administration overstepped its authority by attempting to censor political speech on a private platform.
“The strongest argument against free speech on Twitter has two parts. 1) It’s private and so not bound by 1A. 2) There is a higher standard that could limit the downside of free speech on Twitter. *It fails when the executive branch takes an interest—1A now applies directly,*” Weinstein tweeted.
Weinstein went on, “It also fails if one attempts to create a standard of ‘misinformation’ that might be excluded. As soon as you attempt that, you are creating a political weapon ‘Who decides what’s true?’ is a question with no good answer—as recent events have made plain.”
He concluded, “The case for the censorship of claims and facts is simply fatally flawed. There may or may not be things worth barring with TOS. But regulating the flow of ideas based on whether they’re true is insane and dangerous, and the executive long ago violated the public/private boundary.”
Brendon Leslie, editor-in-chief of Florida’s Voice, accused elected Democrats of being fascists.
“The Federal Government is keeping a ‘close eye’ on @ElonMusk for simply allowing free speech The Left is projecting- they’re the real fascists,” Leslie wrote.
‘The Rubin Report’ host Dave Rubin, tweeted, “Absolutely insane watching The Machine go after @elonmusk for defending free speech. This whole exchange is kabuki theater, from the ridiculous leading question by the ‘journalist’ to KJP’s obviously pre-planned response.”
Musk himself responded to Rubin’s tweet. “Why are so many in the media against free speech? This is messed up,” he wrote.
Prior to Musk’s takeover of the platform last month, Twitter had long been accused of a bias against conservatives. The platform infamously censored the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story just weeks before the 2020 presidential election and suspended the accounts of conservatives such as Donald Trump, Jordan Peterson, and others while allowing the Iranian ayatollah and Chinese government propagandists to remain.