The White House was accused of double standards on Wednesday, when a senior spokesman deflected questions about Apple bowing to Chinese authorities by saying the tech giant was a private company, while the Biden administration says it monitors Twitter for misinformation.
Speaking on Fox News, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, said it was a matter of comparing “apples to oranges.”
Conservatives have taken out anger at the White House after it said it would “keep an eye” on misinformation on Twitter after Elon Musk bought the platform.
It has also expressed concern that foreign investors could manipulate the platform.
So Kirby was awkwardly questioned about his reaction to Apple restricting the use of its Airdrop feature just before protests erupted.
“We’ve been clear about this around the world,” he said.
“We want individual citizens, whatever government they live under, to be able to communicate freely and openly, transparently and reliably.
And we made that clear with regard to Iran. And we will certainly continue to make that clear here with regard to Apple.”
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s strategic communications coordinator, faced allegations of double standards when he appeared on Fox News Wednesday
Chinese protesters have historically found Apple’s AirDrop a convenient way to circumvent communications surveillance. But the company recently released an update that restricts its use
Elon Musk’s ownership of Twitter has come under heavy scrutiny, leading Republicans to say the government is practicing double standards when it comes to Tim Cook’s Apple
Host Martha MacCallum pressed him whether the administration had made that point at Tim Cook’s company.
“Apple is a private company, Martha,” he replied. “They have to make decisions and they have to speak for those decisions.”
China has seen a wave of protests as it imposed lockdowns and continued its ‘zero COVID’ policy.
Protesters have even demanded the removal of Xi Jinping as president.
Apple’s AirDrop had proved a useful way for critics to evade Chinese surveillance during other waves of dissent, such as in Hong Kong in 2019.
MacCallum contrasted the administration’s approach that allowed Apple to do its own thing with White House PRess secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said officials were monitoring misinformation on Twitter – despite being a private company as well.
“I think we’ve been very clear and consistent on this,” Kirby replied.
‘Certainly in public we have been very open about our desire to see citizens communicate.
Apple, if this is a decision they’re making, they should talk about it, but we don’t, we can’t and it’s not our job to tell private companies how to execute their initiatives. ‘
GOP lawmakers are also grilling Apple over its new China-exclusive AirDrop update that restricts use of the feature, which was rolled out just weeks before nationwide protests
MacCallum stepped in and said, “Twitter is also a private company. So why does Twitter get one treatment and Apple the other?’
“Those are totally two different circumstances you’re talking about,” he said.
“You’re talking about the potential for maybe foreign investment and involvement in the management of Twitter. That’s a different issue than what we’re talking about here, which is Apple’s business decision regarding how one of their applications is used.”
But he admitted it was an important question.
“I definitely think this is a fair question to ask Apple and have them communicate why they did this,” he said.
The role of foreign investors on Twitter, coupled with Musk’s laissez-faire approach to moderation, has raised concerns that the platform could be manipulated by foreign powers.
Securities filings show that Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abudlaziz of Saudi Arabia paid $1.9 billion of the purchase price as part of the Musk deal, making him the second-largest shareholder.
Lawmakers have already flagged Saudi money’s role in the deal and called for a review.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said last month: “We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in suppressing political expression and influencing American politics, are now the second-largest owner of a large platform for social media.’
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal helped fund the $44 billion purchase of Musk and is now the social media platform’s second-largest shareholder
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said last month that Musk’s deal with the Saudis was worth investigating.
Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reversed course on Wednesday, saying she was ‘misspeaking’ when she said there was no basis for a review of Elon Musk’s Twitter deal
And on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen reversed course, saying there could be grounds for a review.
Earlier this month, she had said she saw “no basis” for a Treasury review.
Speaking in New York on Wednesday, she said, “Let me clarify. I was mistaken.
“Let me say as far as there is international investment there, we have an agency within Treasury called CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] that does look at transactions involving foreign investment in the United States to see if they pose a risk to national security.”
Yellen declined to comment further on the prospect of a review from Musk and Twitter.
“We don’t talk about particular transactions, but this agency does look carefully at transactions that may involve risk,” she told an audience at the New York Times DealBook Summit.
“I’m not going to say specifically what we will or won’t look at. We do not comment on work in progress.
“But if there are such risks, it would be appropriate for CFIUS to look.”