Trump versus Social Media: Let the Battle Begin!

It’s definitely fair to say that President Trump has established an entirely new way of Presidential communication with the American people. He is the first President to make extensive use of social media, specifically Twitter. As a result, the American people have direct access to many of the President’s personal views and thoughts.

To be honest, I’m not sure how I feel about Trump’s use of Twitter. At times I think his comments have created unnecessary grief for himself. I’ve also wondered how much access the world should have to his thought processes…should the world know exactly what’s on the mind of the POTUS? On the other hand, I realize that Trump is the most unconventional politician of this or any era in American history. He is not a fool. He came upon the scene a political neophyte and proceeded to beat one established politician after another all the way to the White House. Obviously, Trump understands how to communicate his message to the American people. You can’t argue with success.

I think its fair to say that Trump has established an entirely new method and manner of politician to constituent communication. Trump’s Twitter feed is something brand new and something never attempted before by any other President. It’s also consistent with our democratic ideals. Shouldn’t every politician keep his/her constituents up to date on everything? At the end of the day, I can’t criticize a politician that is communicating their vision to the people. Its their job: serve the public and keep them informed. If they say something I question, then its up to me as an individual to scrutinize those comments and arrive at my own conclusions. It isn’t up to Twitter to do it for me.

Trump is often ahead of the curve when it comes to political innovation. Central to his creativity is the fact that he disregards popular media sources and focuses on the desires of the American people. While CNN, The Washington Post, New York Times, and other liberal media sources have continually depicted Trump as a dangerous lunatic, he still enjoys widespread support. Mainstream media criticizes Trump for everything he does. I think this actually works to his advantage. Therefore, Trump’s use of Twitter serves two vital purposes: 1) It allows him to express his unedited views to the public and 2) His tweets reinforce the notion that Trump is not the choice of powerful interests because said tweets only elicit more criticism from mainstream sources.

The world we currently live in, with our highly advanced technology, is far more complicated than anyone could have ever imagined. Can you imagine if Facebook or Twitter existed during the American Revolution or the Civil War? Its really a fascinating prospect. Would our views of George Washington be different if he had a Twitter feed? How about Abraham Lincoln? As it stands, historians can only examine past events, including, official records, journals, letters written to and by these men, the contents of their public speeches, as well as the actions they actually took to piece together what these men really believed and what values they held.

Unfortunately (or fortunately…I’m not really sure), we don’t have historical Twitter feeds from Washington or Lincoln. If we did, it would likely change history or at least our historical interpretation of the deeds done by these and other figures central to American history. Social Media has brought about the ability for anyone to communicate their views, opinions, emotions, sentiments, etc. instantaneously to millions of people. Imagine an historical tweet from Washington about the situation at Valley Forge or a tweet from Lincoln detailing his decision to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

If Twitter or Facebook existed during the lifetimes of these key figures in American history, we would have known what was on their minds at the exact time they made their biggest contributions to the success of our nation. It could have also potentially changed history. Take Valley Forge. At the time, Washington faced heavy criticism from those in leadership positions. Instead of whipping his men into shape, he would have had to go on Twitter to answer tweets posted by his political opponents. That would have been interesting.

For one, the open criticism would have increased British morale and greatly impacted the public’s level of confidence in Washington. Second, had Washington been forced to verbally defend himself, it could have given the British insights into his military strategy. The reality was that despite great obstacles Washington had the trust and respect of the rank and file soldiers under his command. Washington built a formidable fighting force and the Continental Army prevailed. Independence was won.

I think Washington and his situation at Valley Forge is a perfect historical analogy to use regarding Twitter’s recent ‘fact checking’ disclaimer issued against Trump’s tweet about elections. Suppose Washington had tweeted the following: “To my American brethren…rest assured that the Continental Army is up to the challenge of defeating Britain. Our courage and determination remain resolute!!!” What would have happened if Twitter had issued the following disclaimer on Washington’s comment: Please note that Great Britain possesses the most powerful military in the world. Resistance against British forces will likely result in severe punishment up to and including death. Factually, it would have been hard to argue we had any chance to defeat Great Britain. However, history is a result of what actually happens…not what is supposedto happen. History has proven that many statements which seemed to be factual inaccuracies when uttered ultimately proved to be truthful assessments.

The first amendment has been and continues to be the cornerstone of American society. It states:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

That right should always prevail. Of course, the Founding Fathers had no way of anticipating the invention of social media and the impact it would have on freedom of speech.

The ability to express views on social media were addressed by the Communications Decency Act (CDA) of 1996. Section 230 of that Act protects social media platforms from liability for the comments made on their sites. If I create a Twitter account and start talking about crazy nonsense, Section 230 protects Section 230 from liability. Fair enough. That makes sense. If you are going to provide a public platform and give everyone the chance to use your microphone, you can’t be held liable for what those people say. These are public, not private platforms. If anyone can use it, you can’t violate 1stAmendment rights.

Since Section 230 provides immunity to social media providers, they have no reason to censor speech. Section 230 was meant to protect free speech. If a social media provider censors content, they are violating the spirit of Section 230. When they censor the POTUS, they have gone too far. Therefore, Trump was well within his rights and the law when he issued an Executive Order on Thursday that essentially says “if social media platforms censor their users, they are no longer entitled to liability protection.”

We have a right to hear what Trump says without ‘fact checking.’ If Trump wants to warn us about potential issues with mail-in voting, it is his job to warn us. It isn’t Twitter’s job to issue a disclaimer about it. Political censorship should result in liability. Period. Twitter fired at Trump and Trump fired back. This issue will be fought in the courts and will likely lead to better worded legislation. A new war has begun…a war for freedom of speech and the right to express one’s views. Political censorship cannot be tolerated. Let the people decide!

Michael Russell

A native, of Indiana, Russell has always been interested in politics. He is a Libertarian and strong supporter of conservative causes. He has spent the last 20 years as an investment analyst. Russell and his wife Ginger have 3 children.

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