If the White House finds a reporter tweet they don’t like, a staff member flags it and then sends a mass email to about 80 Obama aides that take the time to respond, via email, to the tweeter.
A report from Yahoo News indicates this is the general process for any kind of tweet sent that needs clarification by the administration.
In the age of social media, everyone has a Twitter account they use to share their thoughts and opinions, which can sometimes end with the sender — if they belong to the press corps — being flagged by a staff member.
The “People’s House” has a person dedicated solely to look at Twitter, 24-year-old Jessica Allen is the “media monitor” that scrolls through the social media site and finds “questionable” tweets on a daily basis.
Most press corps reporters have been subject to receiving an unexpected email from a staff member following a tweet, “often thoughtfully and constructively, sometimes with obscenity-laced yelps of outrage.”
Oliver Knox, the author of the piece, names some specific examples of tweets that have landed him “in trouble” with the White House media monitor, such as the one about Obama/JFK comparisons, his opinion regarding Russia and the Ukraine crisis, and a tweet about the possibility that VP Joe Biden may stop in Afghanistan.
When Knox talked to active press corps tweeters, they revealed similar experiences, but didn’t know that the White House actually had hired Allen for the purpose of examining and flagging tweets it doesn’t agree with.
“On Monday, during Biden’s speech on economic issues, Allen sent at least six emails to her list, each with up to three tweets, chiefly observations from reporters about the remarks,” according to an official.
A White House official say that on any given day, Allen sends hundreds of emails, not including breaking news and that tally is even larger when President Obama has a press conference or speech.
But Knox doesn’t believe this is a “Big Brother” type-surveillance and says reporters use Twitter to engage, share opinions, speculate, in other words what they do as part of their job.
Chris Geidner, BuzzFeed’s legal editor — who got a call from Press Secretary Jay Carney after a misunderstanding about a tweet — has a theory:
“I would definitely say that it was a sign that it (Twitter) does matter to them — that they treat it the same way that they would treat a published report, which is probably smart. They pushed back the way they would have if I had done a story.”
Anecdotally, the White House doesn’t engage in back-and-forth tweets when they have a disagreement with a reporter. Instead, they do it in private via email or phone call, Knox says, and as any good journalist knows, some see this as a great opportunity to put themselves in front of some very high profile people.
What do you think of the White House monitoring the press corps tweets? Doing their job or snooping?