Even Donald Trump’s most entrenched critics admit that his use of social media in the 2016 presidential campaign was masterful, as the controversial real-estate developer and reality TV star used Twitter to communicate directly with his followers, circumventing the mainstream media’s ideological filters.
Trump is fully aware of the contributions social media, and especially Twitter, made to the success of his dark-horse presidential bid.
In a Sunday interview on the Fox Business Network, Trump told Maria Bartiromo: “I doubt I would be here if weren’t for social media, to be honest with you. Because there is a fake media out there, I get treated very unfairly by the media.”
By providing a direct channel to his supporters, social media enables Trump to swiftly rebut and reframe attacks.
“So when somebody, says something about me, I am able to go bing, bing, bing, and I take care of it. The other way, I would never get the word out.” He also praised the immediacy of social media and its relationship legacy media, noting: “When I put it out, you put it immediately on your show. I mean the other day, I put something out, two seconds later, I am watching your show, it’s up.”
Trump seemed to admit that the confected online drama, far from being an undesirable side effect of ill-considered social media use, is actually the main purpose of the presidential social-media strategy: “You have to keep people interested also. You know, you have to keep people interested.”
Separately, technology platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, have disclosed evidence of attempts by Russian-aligned groups or individuals to influence the 2016 election through social media, including ads and content apparently designed to inflame social tensions around hot-button issues, such as race and immigration.
One recent study found that 19% of all Twitter accounts tweeting election-related content were actually bots of varying partisan orientations, compared to 15% for Twitter overall.
As noted in last week’s post, some foreign-influenced campaigns appear to have targeted U.S. military personnel.
Oxford University researchers identified a number of Web sites associated with the Russian government that used social media last year to disseminate a range of ideologically charged content to service members and veterans. That included “conspiracy theories and other misinformation."