Donald Trump on social media

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Text: "My use of social media is not Presidential – it’s MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL. Make America Great Again!"
A 2017 tweet posted on Donald Trump's verified Twitter account. [1]

The presence of Donald Trump on social media has attracted attention worldwide since he joined Twitter in March 2009. He has frequently used Twitter to comment on politicians and celebrities, and he relied on Twitter significantly to communicate during the 2016 United States presidential election. The attention on Trump's Twitter activity has significantly increased since he was sworn in as the 45th President of the United States and continued to post controversial opinions and statements.[2][3][4][5]

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has said that Trump's tweets are "considered official statements by the President of the United States."[6] According to a June 2017 Fox News poll, 70 percent of people say Trump's tweets are hurting his agenda and 17 percent say the tweets are helpful.[7][8]

Background

Before his election Donald Trump was projected to become the first "social media president" by CNN. In comparison, Franklin D. Roosevelt can be described as the first "radio president", John F. Kennedy as the first "television president", and Barack Obama as the first "internet president". These presidents had a tremendous impact by spreading their message through new media channels.[9]

Social media also was an important part of Trump's presidential election campaign in 2016, and was one of the reasons he was ultimately elected.[10] In 2016, his Twitter following exceeded that of his Republican rivals and approached that of his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. Trump personally manages his Twitter presence, either dictating messages to his assistant or typing them out himself.[11] Trump's social media messages often address people as individuals, distinguishing his communications from Obama's, which generally mobilized his supporters en masse.[12]

Trump claimed before his inauguration that he would scale back his usage of social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter. He also stated that social media made it possible to win the elections with less money spent.[13] Nevertheless, by May 2017, he had a social media audience of over 45 million Americans.[14] This has allowed Trump to "sideline mainstream media" and dramatically shift the way the president communicates with the public.[14]

Twitter

In 2009, marketing staffer Peter Costanzo suggested to Donald Trump that social media could be used to draw attention to his then-current book, Think Like a Champion.[15] Convinced by Costanzo, Trump joined Twitter in March 2009.[16] The username @DonaldTrump was already being used by a parody account, so Trump's username, @realDonaldTrump, was selected to distinguish between them.[15] The first tweet was sent on May 4, 2009, advertising his upcoming appearance on Late Show with David Letterman.[15]

Trump did not write many of the early tweets sent under his account. Initially, messages were drafted by Costanzo, with Trump providing his approval before they were sent.[17] For the first two years, tweets actually written by Trump included the phrase "from Donald Trump" to distinguish them from those written by his staff, but by about June 2011, as Trump's use of the platform increased, those identifying labels disappeared.[15] By the 2016 campaign, researchers observed that some tweets—often those with the most critical opinions—were being submitted from an Android phone, while others were sent to Twitter from an iPhone.[18] This suggested that members of Trump's staff were still responsible for some of the messages sent under his account, a suspicion that was largely confirmed using sentiment analysis.[19] As president, Trump stopped use of his Android due to security concerns; however, machine learning and natural language processing could still frequently distinguish Trump's actual tweets from those sent in his name, even when staffers attempted to emulate his writing style.[20]

Trump's tweets are spontaneous, unfiltered and reveal his emotions.[12] He often delivers barbed commentary concerning his political opponents,[21] and offers insults to a variety of persons, places, and things.[22][23] A January 2016 review found that one in every eight Trump Twitter posts "was a personal insult of some kind."[22] As of June 2017, Trump had insulted 332 people, places, and things on Twitter, ranging from politicians to journalists and news outlets to countries.[23] On occasion, Trump has targeted private citizens in this manner. A 2015 Trump tweet against a 18-year-old college student who had challenged him at a New Hampshire political forum led to a wave of online harassment against her.[24] In December 2016, then-president-elect Trump responded to criticism from the president of United Steelworkers Local 1999 in Indiana by tweeting that the local union leader "has done a terrible job representing workers";[25] the union president received threatening phone calls afterward. Reached for comment, he suggested Trump "needs to worry about getting his Cabinet filled, and leave me the hell alone."[26]

Upon Trump's inauguration, he gained control of the official U.S. Presidential Twitter account (@POTUS), which had been created by Barack Obama. Trump's first tweets as president were made from his personal account, but he has made use of both accounts.[27] Aspects of Trump's use of Twitter during the campaign and as president risk potential legal complications. Courts hearing legal challenges to Executive Order 13769, which Trump has called a "travel ban", considered his communications when addressing the motivations and purpose of the order.[28] A tweet suggesting that tapes of his conversations with James Comey may exist was viewed by some lawyers as potential witness tampering.[28] Additionally, Trump sometimes deletes his tweets, which could complicate adherence to the Presidential Records Act.[29]

A Fox News compilation of Trump's spelling and grammar errors on Twitter included the non-word "covfefe" as well as his 2016 misspelling of unprecedented as "unpresidented",[30] which The Guardian named "word of the year" in tongue-in-cheek fashion.[31][32]

Donald Trump official account has blocked various other Twitter accounts, including those of VoteVets.org and Stephen King.[33][34] Lawyers from Knight First Amendment Institute of Columbia University stated in a letter to Trump that the blocking of users by the president has violated their free-speech rights under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. However, Michael W. McConnell and UCLA School of Law's professor Eugene Volokh disagree.[35]

The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, set up by The Daily Show in Manhattan in June 2017.

In June 2017, the satirical news program The Daily Show and its network, Comedy Central, set up a temporary museum space on West 57th Street, next to Trump Tower in Manhattan, that was dedicated to Trump's tweets.[36][37]

Follower counts

Prior to the election, 8 percent of his 7.58 million followers were suspected bots.[38][39] In January 2017, Trump had 20 million followers, and an audit by a journalist showed that 32 percent were fake. In May 2017, his followers had jumped to 30 million followers, but only about half are legitimate accounts. By comparison, an analysis shows that 21 percent of Barack Obama's 89 million Twitter followers were bots.[38]

However, a Twitter spokesman denied the claim that there are that many fake accounts on the service.[39]

Trump Tower wiretapping allegations

Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!
President Donald Trump (in the first of four tweets that claimed that former President Barack Obama tapped the phones in Trump Tower), Twitter[a]

In a succession of tweets on March 4, 2017,[40][a] President Trump stated he had "just found out" that former president Obama had wiretapped the phones in his offices at Trump Tower during the last months of the 2016 election. The tweets resulted into a weeks long media attention given to the allegations, despite scarce evidence. Fake news websites did also take up the allegations, and one even claimed that a warrant for Barack Obama's arrest had been given.[40][41] He did not say where he had obtained the information and offered no evidence to support it.[42] Trump compared the alleged intrusion to McCarthyism and Watergate. Anonymous White House officials told The Washington Post that Trump did not appear to coordinate his comments with other White House officials.[41]

During April and May there was no further evidence forthcoming on the claims. When questioned about the issue in an interview on April 30, Trump was evasive when asked about his relationship with former president Obama. He said 'I don't stand by anything' and he thought 'our side has been proven very strongly, and everybody's talking about it'.[43]

Russian influence investigation

On May 18, 2017, Trump tweeted, with regard to the nomination of Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, "This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!"[44] Trump stated plans to live-Tweet during Comey's Senate testimony, but he did not.[45]

"Covfefe"

The cryptic tweet sent by Trump[b]
The COVFEFE Act

On May 31, 2017, Trump sent out a tweet that read, in its entirety, "Despite the negative press covfefe". The tweet was deleted only hours after its posting.[46] It immediately went viral, becoming an Internet meme and a source of widespread jokes.[47] The tweet was liked and retweeted over a hundred thousand times, making it one of the most popular tweets of 2017 to that date, as people speculated on the meaning of the word "covfefe".[48] About five hours later, Trump deleted it and sent out another one, asking people what they thought "covfefe" could mean.[48]

Off camera, at a press briefing later the same day, Sean Spicer responded to questions about the tweet that "the president and a small group of people know exactly what he meant." No further explanation was given during the briefing.[49] Some reporters, observing that Spicer did not appear to be joking, were concerned by the implications. Conservative columnist Jonah Goldberg, writing for the National Review, considered it unlikely that "covfefe" is "some esoteric code word", suggesting instead, "Spicer feels compelled to protect the myth of Trumpian infallibility at all costs".[50] The Atlantic's Megan Garber felt that Spicer's response further divided the White House from the public by giving a likely typo "the whiff of conspiracy."[51] At The Washington Post, Callum Borchers instead argued that the deliberately obscure response was an intentional tactic to distract the media and public from the administration's other controversies.[52]

Leonid Bershidsky writing for Bloomberg View compared the phenomenon to Ronald Reagan when the then-president made a gaffe joking on audio "We begin bombing in five minutes".[53] Bershidsky compared Reagan's comment to Trump's: "Reagan's infamous 'nuclear joke,' which rocked world leaders, was 136 characters long, just right for a tweet."[53] Compliance Week noted: "In Reagan’s case, he immediately admitted the error and squashed it. In Trump's case, he sent a wrong message and then allowed it to sit for hours untended."[54]

On June 12, 2017, Democratic representative Mike Quigley filed legislation titled the Communications Over Various Feeds Electronically for Engagement (COVFEFE) Act, using the term made infamous in Trump's tweet. The bill would amend the Presidential Records Act to cover social media, thus requiring tweets and other social media posts by the U.S. President to be preserved under law.[55]

On June 26, 2017, the state of Georgia banned the use of the word "covfefe" on vanity license plates.[56]

Comments on Sadiq Khan

After the June 2017 London attack, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan condemned it and said that "the city remains one of the safest in the world" and there was "no reason to be alarmed" over the increased police presence around the city.[57][58] The latter comment was criticised by US President Trump in a tweet:

"At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is 'no reason to be alarmed!'"[59][60]

Trump's comments were described as a deliberate misrepresentation of Khan's remarks by his spokesman,[61] as well as by former U.S. Vice President Al Gore. Prime Minister Theresa May said that "Sadiq Khan is doing a good job and it is wrong to say anything else".[60] Conservative minister Penny Mordaunt and Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also backed Khan. Farron said "Sadiq Khan has shown calm and dignified resolve in the face of these cowardly terrorist attacks. He is more of a statesman than Donald Trump will ever be."[62] Lewis Lukens, the former US ambassador to the UK, and the United States Conference of Mayors declared their support, with Lukens commending Khan's "strong leadership" in leading London forward after the attack and also praising the "extraordinary response" from the law enforcement community.[63][64] President Trump tweeted the following day that the London Mayor was offering a "pathetic excuse" for his statement, and alleging that the mainstream media were "working hard to sell" Khan's explanation.[60][61][65][66] When asked about these comments following a vigil held near Tower Bridge, Khan stated that he was busy dealing with the aftermath of the attack and declared that he has not "got the time to respond to tweets from Donald Trump."[66]

Trump's sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, defended his comments and claimed that Khan, who worked along with the security services and held a vigil for victims of the attack, was not doing enough to combat terrorism. Trump Jr. stated that Khan should stop attacking his father, despite the fact that Khan did not respond to Trump's comments.[67]

On June 13, 2017, Senator John McCain referred to Trump's comments in stating that America is "not showing leadership around the world" and that former-President Barack Obama and his administration had offered better leadership, a comment he later partially retracted by stating that only certain "different aspects" were better during Obama's presidency.[68][69]

Comments on Morning Joe hosts

On June 29, 2017, Trump tweeted "I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don't watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came... ...to Mar-a-Lago 3 nights in a row around New Year's Eve, and insisted on joining me. She was bleeding badly from a face-lift. I said no!"[70] The subjects of the tweets were Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, who earlier in the day had talked about Trump on their show.[71]

The comments were quickly met with condemnation from both the left and the right. Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House, stated, "Obviously, I don't see that as an appropriate comment."[71] Nancy Pelosi, Minority Leader of the United States House of Representatives, stated that the tweet "really saddens me because it is so beneath the dignity of the president of the United States to engage in such behavior."[72] Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins tweeted "This has to stop – we all have a job – 3 branches of gov't and media. We don't have to get along, but we must show respect and civility."[72] Rebukes also came from Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford, New York Democrat Representative Nita Lowey, and Kansas Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins.[72]

MSNBC stated, "It's a sad day for America when the president spends his time bullying, lying and spewing petty personal attacks instead of doing his job."[73] Aaron Blake of the Washington Post wrote an article titled "Trump's very bad tweets about Mika Brzezinski are a microcosm of his struggling presidency."[74]

Seemingly in defense of Trump, Melania Trump's spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham released the statement: "As the First Lady has stated publicly in the past, when her husband gets attacked, he will punch back 10 times harder."[70] Sarah Huckabee Sanders stated, "Look, I don't think that the president's ever been someone who gets attacked and doesn't push back. There have been an outrageous number of personal attacks, not just to him but to frankly everyone around him. People that have personally attacked me many times. This is a president who fights fire with fire and certainly will not be allowed to be bullied by liberal media and the liberal elites in Hollywood or anywhere else."[75]

On July 1, 2017, Trump tweeted "Crazy Joe Scarborough and dumb as a rock Mika are not bad people, but their low rated show is dominated by their NBC bosses. Too bad!"[76]

After these tweets, Donald Trump's approval rating decreased from 40% to 37%, according to a Gallup poll.[8] However, the RealClearPolitics average of polls showed his approval rating remained virtually unchanged in the same time period.[77]

Later on in the month, Scarborough announced that he was leaving the Republican party and becoming an Independent.

CNN wrestling video

On July 2, 2017, Donald Trump tweeted a video of himself wrestling Vince McMahon during WrestleMania 23 with the CNN logo over McMahon's face. In response, Brian Stelter of CNN issued a statement that claimed Trump was "encouraging violence against reporters" and "involved in juvenile behavior far below the dignity of his office".[78][79][80][81] CNN also responded to the tweet by quoting Sarah Huckabee Sanders who claimed the previous week "The president in no way form or fashion has ever promoted or encouraged violence. If anything, quite the contrary".[78] Meanwhile, in an interview on ABC's This Week, Homeland Security Advisor Tom Bossert said that "no one would perceive [the tweet] as a threat."[78][82] On July 6, while being questioned at a joint news conference with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Trump said that CNN took the post too seriously, adding that CNN has "hurt themselves very badly".[83]

Various sources, including The New York Times, NBC News, BBC, and The Washington Post, noted that the clip appeared on pro-Trump subreddit, /r/The Donald, about four days earlier,[78][84][85][86] and that it had been created by a Reddit account with a history of making racist, antisemitic and bigoted posts.[87] However, on July 3, the White House denied that the video came from Reddit.[88]

As of July 5, 2017, the tweet has been retweeted over 340,000 times, making it Trump's most retweeted post. The tweet had also edged out Trump's Election Day tweet, which reads "TODAY WE MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN".[89][90]

Lawsuit filed by blocked Twitter users

On July 11, 2017, a group of Twitter users who had been blocked from Trump's personal Twitter account filed a federal lawsuit, alleging that the realDonaldTrump account constitutes a public forum, and blocking access to it is a violation of constitutional rights. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, also names as defendants White House press secretary Sean Spicer and social media director Dan Scavino. The plaintiffs are represented by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University.[91][92]

Other social media platforms

Facebook

During his 2016 campaign, Trump posted several attack ads on his Facebook page. These include parodies of Pokémon Go[93] and Pac-Man,[94] portraying Hillary Clinton as a Pokémon and as Ms. Pac-Man, respectively. He also used the platform to issue an apology for the Donald Trump and Billy Bush recording.[95] As president, he received criticism for posting a news story about a purported Kuwaiti travel ban similar to Executive Order 13769;[96] Kuwait's foreign minister confirmed that no such ban existed.[97]

Instagram

Donald Trump initially used his personal account on Instagram (@realDonaldTrump) primarily to share personal pictures, including images of himself with his grandchildren.[98][99] In September 2015—then with approximately 377 thousand followers—[98] he used the platform to release a political advertisement. This ad, "Act of Love", attacked primary opponent Jeb Bush on the topic of immigration. Along with Bush's responses, it demonstrated that Instagram could be a political tool rather than merely a personal photo-sharing application.[98] Trump also used the platform to contribute to the controversy regarding the 2016 film Ghostbusters by posting a video criticizing the all-female cast. In response, director Paul Feig claimed that "Trump supporters" were responsible for some of the "internet hate" directed at the film.[100]

When Trump became president, his personal account had grown to over 5 million followers.[99] He also assumed control of an official account (@whitehouse), where he posted pictures from his inauguration.[99] At that time, it was expected that the official account would primarily feature the work of the Chief Official White House Photographer once one was selected;[99] however, Shealah Craighead has contributed relatively little, especially in comparison to Pete Souza's work during the Obama administration.[101]

Reddit

On July 27, 2016, Trump took part in an Ask Me Anything (AMA), where he responded to user-submitted questions from Reddit's /r/The Donald community. He offered replies on topics that varied from media bias and voter fraud to NASA, including a question about H-1B visas posed by alt-right media personality Milo Yiannopoulos.[102][103]

YouTube

From 2011 until 2013 or 2014, Trump created over 80 installments of a vlog on YouTube called "From the Desk of Donald Trump".[c] In it, he discussed a variety of topics, ranging from serious issues such as the Libyan Civil War, Obamacare, and the American job market to less weighty matters, including the Vanity Fair Oscar party and his dislike of Mike McGlone's Rhetorical Questions advertisements for GEICO.[104][105] In several installments, he speculated on a possible presidential candidacy in 2012 that never came to pass,[104] but many of the themes featured in the vlog were part of his successful campaign in 2016.[105] By June 2017, most of these videos were no longer available on YouTube under Trump's account.[106]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ a b The original tweets, in chronological order, are:
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (March 4, 2017). "Terrible! Just found out that Obama had my "wires tapped" in Trump Tower just before the victory. Nothing found. This is McCarthyism!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter. 
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (March 4, 2017). "Is it legal for a sitting President to be "wire tapping" a race for president prior to an election? Turned down by court earlier. A NEW LOW!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter. 
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (March 4, 2017). "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter. 
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (March 4, 2017). "How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"" (Tweet). Archived from the original on April 21, 2017. Retrieved March 21, 2017 – via Twitter. 
  2. ^ The "covfefe" tweets, in chronological order, are:
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (May 31, 2017). "Despite the constant negative press covfefe" (Tweet). Archived from the original on May 31, 2017. Retrieved May 31, 2017 – via Twitter. 
    • Trump, Donald [realDonaldTrump] (May 31, 2017). "Who can figure out the true meaning of "covfefe" ??? Enjoy!" (Tweet). Archived from the original on June 13, 2017. Retrieved June 7, 2017 – via Twitter. 
  3. ^ Cody Johnston reports that there were 96 installments from 2011 to 2014, including one duplicate.[104] Olivia Nuzzi described the series as only running until 2013, with 83 installments.[105]

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