Biden criticizes misinformation on "X" (Twitter), and targets Elon Musk's other companies widely

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that the Biden administration was “certainly keeping an eye on” misinformation on the social media platform "X." Owner Elon Musk says "watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold." One newspaper opined: "Does the Biden Administration have it in for Elon Musk? The Tesla CEO faces a remarkable number of government probes."

Published: October 2, 2023 11:00pm

Updated: October 3, 2023 7:57am

Since Elon Musk has taken over Twitter (now X), he relaxed its misinformation policies on the platform and has become increasingly critical of Democrats and the Biden administration, federal agencies have begun probing X, Tesla, and SpaceX, raising questions about targeting of the billionaire’s breadth of companies.

Following Musk’s takeover of Twitter last year, his companies have been probed by the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission as he has been an advocated for free speech on the platform. The probes include the Justice Department’s Immigrant and Employee Rights division investigating a complaint of employment discrimination from a non-U.S. citizen, who alleged that SpaceX discriminated against him based on his citizenship status, according to Reuters.

The U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York are also investigating the personal benefits that Tesla may have provided its CEO Elon Musk since 2017 as part of a criminal probe that is also looking into the use of company funds to build a proposed glass house.

President Joe Biden was asked by ProPublica in an interview aired Sunday if Musk lowering the guardrails against misinformation on Twitter (now X) contributed to the problem of misinformation.

“Yeah, it does,” Biden said. “Where do people get their news?” he later added. “They go on the internet. They go online … and you have no notion whether it’s true or not.”

Musk wrote in a post last year that he has previously “voted Democrat,” but would “vote Republican” because the Democratic Party had “become the party of division & hate.”

“Now, watch their dirty tricks campaign against me unfold,” he added.

On Thursday, Musk visited Eagle Pass, Texas, along the U.S.-Mexico border, talking with local law enforcement and Rep. Tony Gonzales, R-Texas. Musk said on Friday that the border "situation is beyond insane and growing fast.”

During Musk’s livestream of his border visit, he said that as an immigrant to the U.S., he is “extremely pro-immigrant” and believes “we should let anyone in the country who is hard-working and honest and will be a contributor to the United States.”

"But by the same token, we should also not be allowing people in the country if they're breaking the law,” he later added. “That doesn't make sense. The law is there for a reason. I think we want to do both things."

Last month, the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board published an Op/Ed titled, “The Harassment of Elon Musk.” The Journal posted the piece on X last Monday, writing, “Does the Biden Administration have it in for Elon Musk? The Tesla CEO faces a remarkable number of government probes.”

Musk reposted the Journal’s story post on X the next day, writing, “Sure seems that way.”

The Journal’s piece noted how the Biden administration is probing Musk’s Tesla, SpaceX, and Twitter (now X), which all began over the past year.

In late November 2022, about a month after Musk’s $44 billion deal to purchase Twitter was completed, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during a press briefing that the Biden administration was “certainly keeping an eye on” misinformation on the social media platform.

“[W]e have always been very clear and — that when it comes to social media platforms, it is their responsibility to make sure that when it comes to misinformation, when we — when it comes to the hate that we’re seeing, that they take action, that they continue to take action,” Jean-Pierre said.

The FTC had already requested some documentation from Twitter by the time of the press briefing.

According to a report titled, “The Weaponization of the Federal Trade Commission: An Agency’s Overreach to Harass Elon Musk’s Twitter,” released in March by the House Judiciary Committee's Weaponization of the Federal Government Select Subcommittee, the FTC “demanded that Twitter provide” various documents to the agency.

“When Musk took action to reorient Twitter around free speech, the FTC followed soon thereafter with a new demand letter,” the report reads.

Among the records sought by the FTC include “Information relating to journalists’ work protected by the First Amendment, including their work to expose abuses by Big Tech and the federal government”; “Every single internal communication ‘relating to Elon Musk’”; and “All of the reasons why Twitter terminated former Twitter employee and FBI official Jim Baker,” in addition to other information, according to the House subcommittee’s report.

“The FTC’s harassment of Twitter is likely due to one fact: Musk’s self-described ‘absolutist’ commitment to free expression in the digital town square,” the report reads.

Meanwhile, in August, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against SpaceX “for discriminating against asylees and refugees in hiring,” the department announced.

“In job postings and public statements over several years, SpaceX wrongly claimed that under federal regulations known as ‘export control laws,’ SpaceX could hire only U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents, sometimes referred to as ‘green card holders.’ Export control laws impose no such hiring restrictions,” according to the DOJ.

The DOJ referenced Musk’s 2020 Twitter post that reads, “US law requires at least a green card to be hired at SpaceX, as rockets are considered advanced weapons technology.”

Musk had previously said that SpaceX is governed by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which places restrictions about transferring information to foreign nationals from companies that creates technology such as rockets and spacecraft.

Impulse Space founder Tom Mueller posted on X about the lawsuit in August, writing, “So, if I let a non-US citizen see our rocket hardware, I go to ITAR jail, but if i don't hire a non US citizen I get sued by DoJ. Got it.”

Musk responded to the post on X, writing, “Exactly. SpaceX was told repeatedly that hiring anyone who was not a permanent resident of the United States would violate international arms trafficking law, which would be a criminal offense. We couldn’t even hire Canadian citizens, despite Canada being part of NORAD! This is yet another case of weaponization of the DOJ for political purposes.”

SpaceX countersued the DOJ last month, claiming in its filing that it “has not engaged in any practice or pattern of discriminating against anyone, including asylees or refugees.”

As to the investigations unleashed by the Biden administration regarding the "glass building", Musk posted on X last month, writing, “Just want to reiterate that there is no glass house (metaphors don’t count lol) built, under construction or planned! I’m not building any house of any kind anywhere. Period.”

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