Technology and social media have grown exponentially in the 21st century. It’s so easy for anyone to use, no matter one’s gender, economic standing, or ethnicity. Due to this fact, many world leaders have utilized social media to speak directly to their citizens of all demographics. The United States President Donald Trump is a frequent and popular user of Twitter, so much so that news organizations quote his tweets in the same manner as official statements.
However, the problem is not that President Trump actively uses his Twitter because former President Barack Obama did as well, rather it is that he often says something in an official White House statement and then tweets out a controversial opinion on the matter through his personal account. While many of these controversial statements are not coming from the POTUS (Official President of the USA Twitter) account, everything Trump says on his personal Twitter account are still statements from the current U.S. President; an account that has 33.4 million followers alone viewing his statements.
Throughout his presidential campaign, he utilized Twitter to incite voters and discredit his running mate Hillary Clinton. Even after the election, Trump continues to Tweet about Clinton. On June 15, 2017, he stated, “Crooked H destroyed phones w/ hammer, ‘bleached’ emails, & had husband meet w/AG days before she was cleared- & they talk about obstruction?” He also used the social media platform to voice his frustrations with his Muslim travel ban and very recently tweeted a video of himself fighting a man with CNN’s logo over his face. The tweet was retweeted by the official U.S. President account and was Trump’s most-shared post, according to the Associated Press.
The responses to Trump’s use of Twitter have been widespread among many individuals and news organizations. In response to the controversial tweet, CNN responded in a statement, “It is a sad day when the President of the United States encourages violence against reporters. Clearly, Sarah Huckabee Sanders lied when she said the President had never done so. Instead of preparing for his overseas trip, his first meeting with Vladimir Putin, dealing with North Korea and working on his health care bill, he is instead involved in juvenile behaviour far below the dignity of his office. We will keep doing our jobs. He should start doing his.”
Trump’s supporters have appeared to support his tweets, many tweets have even received over 300,000 likes, all the while non-supporters comment their disapproval in a direct reply to the tweet or ‘quote tweet’ it. Many celebrities and political figures have followed suit in a similar fashion. On June 6, when asked about the President’s tweets, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer stated that “The President is the President of the United States, so they’re considered official statements by the President of the United States.”
While these tweets are regarded as official statements, the Trump Administration defends his Twitter activity, despite going under fire for many of Trump’s tweets. After President Trump tweeted about Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” co-host, White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, “The President has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program, and I think he’s been very clear that when he gets attacked, he’s going to hit back.” Due to the White House protection of Trump and his tweets, he continues to make use of Twitter to speak to American citizens on record. While the media, celebrities, and citizens commenting on his tweets are important, the backlash cannot stop Trump’s actions or words on social media because of the First Amendment (the right to freedom of speech).
It may seem like the situation is helpless and that the President has every right to voice his opinion like any other citizen; however, there are two key solutions society can continue doing. First, the media should persist and question the White House on Trump’s controversial tweets. The Administration can continue to divert the questions and defend Trump, but his tweets should not only stay relevant, but be a matter that the White House should be able to address. Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President, said that the media has “this obsession with covering everything he says on Twitter and very little what he does as president.” Although, it is clear that his tweeting is part of what he is doing as President. Trump has made very substantial statements on Twitter, whether it is through proclamations, going after people, or news media sources that have criticized him, they are not something to be ignored.
Second, citizens should not discount what Trump is saying and brush it off as something ‘stupid’ the President said as they scroll through their Twitter news feeds. He still remains one of the Leaders of the Free World and has a lot of power to make his questionable statements into a reality. Further, citizens should not view the tweets as entirely factual and should look to multiple news sources for information about a specific topic Trump addresses (fact-checking) that specifically analyzes Trump’s tweets. This is to say that many of Trump’s statements may not be entirely factual and are simply misleading.
After the injunctions on his travel ban were partially lifted last week, Trump tweeted, “Very grateful for the 9-0 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. We must keep America SAFE!” PolitiFact reported that this statement is very misleading due to the order being unsigned until October when the case will be officially reviewed. However, many advocates of Trump, the travel ban, or national security may not look further into these words, especially in the midst of other social media happenings today.
Furthermore, in an ideal world, Trump would stop using Twitter to voice his personal opinions that have consequences, such as inciting more hate and disputes in the U.S political landscape. In comparison to Obama and other political leaders, Trump has not utilized Twitter in the same manner. While Trump was criticizing Mika, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was celebrating Canada Day in a parade, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mohandas K. Gandhi’s home, and British Prime Minister Theresa May was giving her “warmest good wishes” to the Muslims in the United Kingdom celebrating Eid al-Fitr on Twitter. While Trump tweets more than Obama, the former President has received more retweets per tweet and the more Trump tweets actually results in fewer retweets, The Washington Post reported.
Social media has become a cornerstone for many companies and political figures in the current decade, and it is hard to know who actually runs the Twitter accounts of notable figures such as Obama and Trump. However, Trump likely has a large portion of control over his personal account and most of his late night tweets are predominately typed up by him. By using Twitter so actively, Trump has made himself and his thoughts very public for, which is interesting considering that he is the President of the U.S. This, in turn, has made those in America and around the world to perceive America’s highest leader in an unfavourable light.
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