Three days ago, President Barack Obama got an official presidential Twitter account. In keeping with hallowed internet tradition, a small Twitter welcoming committee celebrated his arrival with the customary recitation of racial epithets and death threats. But the law can be slow to catch up with web culture, and some people suggested that the Secret Service might actually take these tweeted threats as, well, threats.
In a press conference today, White House press secretary Josh Earnest wouldn't answer a question about whether the Secret Service is investigating any Twitter threats. But he did express a little bit of weary resignation at the more vulgar tweets. "Those kinds of images and that kind of language is all too common on the internet," he said. "I'm sure some of you guys see that on your Twitter feeds as well."
"We're pleased with the early response."
Earnest noted that it wasn't too different to what the White House Twitter feed already received. But "what we believe is that the president's new Twitter handle is one that can be used to important effect to communicate with the American people and engage the American people. And we're pleased with the early response to it."
So what are they doing about racist or threatening tweets? "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. I'll let the Secret Service speak to how they assess these threats and how seriously they need to take them."
Yes, the President of the United States might have an entire division of highly trained agents dedicated to protecting his life, and one of the world's most competent social media teams. But on the internet, chaos reigns — for good, for ill. No mass of mere meat-power can hold the barricades. Maybe the next press conference will give us an official White House position on block lists.