During the White House press briefing yesterday, a New York Times reporter questioned Press Secretary Josh Earnest about President Obama’s new @POTUS Twitter handle, pointing out that many “hateful,” “overtly racist,” comments as well as “violent” and “disturbing” images had been directed at him from other Twitter users.
“Has there been any discussion among him and his advisors or here at the White House about whether these kinds of conversations should be tolerated, if these people should be blocked?” the reporter asked.
“Unfortunately, those kinds of images and that kind of language is all too common on the Internet,” Josh Earnest admitted, adding that reporters might be familiar with unsavory material in their own Twitter feeds.
“It certainly has been directed at the Twitter feed of other White House officials here,” he volunteered.
Earnest explained that the Secret Service would likely monitor the threats posed to Obama on Twitter and assess the seriousness of threats directed at the president. He also added that staffers would probably not block offensive Twitter users.
“My guess is that if we spent a lot of time trying to block those kinds of messages, we’d probably spend a lot of time blocking people on the Internet,” he admitted.
He asserted that the White House communications staff was pleased with the response to Obama’s new Twitter account, in spite of the haters.
“The president’s new Twitter handle is one that can be used to important effect – to communicate with the American people and to engage the American people. And we’re pleased with the early response to it,” he concluded.
Former White House senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer also downplayed worries about offensive content directed at the president.
“Trolls are not a reason to stay off Twitter especially for @POTUS,” he wrote on Twitter. “They are a very loud and very small minority.”