White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Monday dismissed Elon Musk’s release of the so-called “Twitter Files” as a “distraction” at a time when she says the platform is facing a rise in hate speech. 

The exchange came days after Musk, who acquired Twitter in late October, released bombshell revelations about what led the tech giant to suppress a New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s laptop in the final weeks of the 2020 election. 

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Dec. 5, 2022.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh / AP Newsroom)

Musk outsourced his findings to Substack journalist Matt Taibbi who published a lengthy thread detailing the platform’s censorship and the internal decisions that were made. At the time, Twitter Safety alleged that the articles were in violation of its “hacked materials policy.” 

Asked by reporters whether the White House believed Twitter’s decision was made appropriately in light of what has come out, Jean-Pierre instead raised questions about the timing of the release. 

“We see this as an interesting coincidence, if I may, that [Musk] would so haphazardly … push this distraction that is full of old news if you think about it,” she said. “And at the same time, Twitter is facing very real and very serious questions about the rising volume of anger, hate, and antisemitism on their platform and how they’re letting it happen.” 

Critics of Musk’s Twitter acquisition say his stewardship has led to a significant rise in hate speech. Musk, who has described himself as “free speech absolutist,” has said that hate speech impressions, i.e., the number of times a tweet was viewed, has declined “despite significant user growth.” 

“Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom of reach,” Musk said earlier this month. “Negativity should & will get less reach than positivity.”

Meanwhile, Andrea Stroppa, a data analyst who has worked as an independent researcher alongside Twitter’s Trust and Safety team, tweeted Saturday that the daily suspension rate for accounts engaging in child sexual abuse/exploitation material has “almost doubled over the past few days.” 

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