US government frets over Musk-owned Twitter
Billionaire Elon Musk’s acquisition of social media giant Twitter has seen the US government suddenly backing away from its embrace of such mega platforms. “No matter who owns or runs Twitter, the president [Joe Biden] has long been concerned about the power of large social media platforms [and] the power they have over our daily lives,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated during a press briefing on Monday after Musk officially bought Twitter for $44 billion.
Psaki insisted this sudden concern was unrelated to the Tesla tycoon’s latest purchase, claiming “our concerns are not new” with regard to the social media monopolies. Biden, she said, “has long argued that tech platforms must be held accountable for the harm they cause.”
The White House spokesperson insisted the administration was continuing to push for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which offers platforms that host third-party content immunity from liability for user-supplied content, as well as antitrust and transparency enforcement against the social media behemoths.
“We engage regularly with all social media platforms about steps that can be taken,” Psaki claimed, adding that while she was “sure [this] will continue,” there were “also reforms that we think Congress could take.”
While there are multiple antitrust cases pending against Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Apple, Twitter has been in the regulatory crosshairs somewhat less often. However, it has received plenty of attention as the former online home of ex-President Donald Trump, from which he was exiled in January 2021 following the January 6 riot at the Capitol while he was still commander-in-chief. Some fear a Musk-led Twitter will give him back his account, though he remains banned from other mainstream social media outlets.
However, Trump told Fox News on Monday he plans to focus on TRUTH Social, his own social media network that debuted earlier this year, and would not return to Twitter even if Musk reinstated his page. Trump has also been a vocal supporter of repealing Section 230, which would align him with the White House if Psaki’s statements reflect the administration’s genuine position.
However, the Biden's team have in the past praised such monopolistic platforms, admitting government officials had personally flagged ‘misinformation’ related to Covid-19 on Facebook, even while calling on the tech giants to do more to silence unauthorized viewpoints.
Musk has promised to make free speech central in his takeover of Twitter, and took the unusual step of calling for his “worst critics” to stay on the service, insisting this is “what free speech means.”
While his purchase had some on the platform frothing mad, Twitter stock was up 6% on the announcement of the acquisition.