Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Press Secretary, Dmitry Peskov, said that “everything which is published from [President Trump’s] authorized Twitter account is perceived by Moscow as his official statement.” He added that Putin gets regular statements regarding all sorts of politicians, and Trump’s tweets are included in these briefs as Putin is not a Twitter user.
In June, (now former) White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, in regards to the president’s tweets, that “The president is president of the United States … so they are considered official statements by the president of the United States.”
President Trump’s use of Twitter has been controversial since before the election. Since taking the presidency, he continues to voice both official statements and political opinions on the social media platform. Some have criticized his use of Twitter, pointing at contradictions in his tweets and U.S. policy, as well as condemning his brazen persona as a figurehead of the country; conversely, others have defended his right to speak freely, and lauded his lack of “politically correct” tweets, as well as backing many of his political statements.
Debates have sprung up in regards to whether or not the president has the same rights to free speech, and whether they should be allowed to use their office as a platform to condemn something like the NFL or dissenting celebrities. Members of the United States military do not have the same freedom of speech given to civilians, and they cannot use their uniform to voice their opinions, even if the military agrees with them. However, that too is a controversial subject and such behavior is not always recognized or punished.
President Obama had a distinctively large online presence, but President Trump’s use of Twitter has skyrocketed his online presence far beyond that of Obama’s. He has approximately 44.5 million followers and generally tweets multiples times every day. Having the president’s voice in your pocket has changed the way that information leaves the White House, though how he uses the technology is mostly at the center of controversy.
While Calvin Coolidge was the first president to use the radio to address the nation, it was Franklin Roosevelt who really used the radio for the first time to get into the homes of every American, in the way that President Trump has managed to get in America’s pockets via social media. Roosevelt was also the first president to appear on television, but it was Truman who broke ground in using television as an effective medium among Americans, and Kennedy who really took it to another level.
There are differences and new hurdles with every new medium — with radio, like a public speech, you cannot take back anything you say. Mistakes cannot be made, unlike a written publication that can be edited and refined. The same goes for television, but audiences can see as well as hear you, making this even more difficult. Social media does not have this problem, as the author can edit and refine their posts as necessary. However, the accessibility and sheer volume of posts possible bring their own unique brand of difficulties, and it also allows for an unprecedented level of interactivity with the average person.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.