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EDITORIAL: President Trump’s troubling tweeting

From the beginning, there was something special about Twitter. When the online social network arrived in 2006, it was immediately placed on the watch list of consequential inventions.

One year later, Twitter captured the attention of the world at Virginia Tech, the tech-forward public university in Blacksburg where students were early adopters. With a gunman on the loose and school buildings on lockdown, students communicated by Twitter as they hid from the gunman. “My friends might be dead,” wrote one from under a desk, warning his classmates to stay away from Norris Hall.

Following the Virginia Tech tragedy, reports cited how the social network served as a real-time warning system that likely saved lives. Twitter arrived as an essential communications channel in connected society.

Now, Twitter is one of those inventions that, entrepreneurs like to say, changes the world. It enables anyone to share information and create ideas instantly with a140- character message called a tweet. About 80 percent of users tweet on Twitter’s mobile phone platform, connecting most anyone with a mobile phone. One of them is Donald Trump.

President Trump has credited the social media network with helping him win the presidency. Unlike Barack Obama, who in 2008 first used social media to organize young voters, Trump tweets directly from the White House. He does so with impunity, attacking opponents or criticizing those who question him or hold him accountable.

Trump calls Twitter part of the modern presidency, a way to connect with his supporters. We call it a tragic misuse of the platform.

Even the president’s supporters are offended by the content and tone of the president’s 140-character tweet storms, which they characterize as beneath the dignity of the presidency.

Now the co-founder of Twitter says he feels guilty for providing the platform for President Trump. "It's a very bad thing, Twitter's role in that," Evan Williams, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who was once CEO and chairman of Twitter, said in an interview with The New York Times. "I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that."

Trump's infamous use of the social media platform, which he joined in 2009 and gained a following before he ran for office, both connects him and separates him from other users. Trump now has more than 30 million followers and The White House has defended his frequent use of Twitter as a mechanism for him to be closer to his base.

Truth is elusive in Trump’s Twitterverse. On Twitter, the president dresses up useful lies as “alternative facts” and decries uncomfortable realities as “fake news.” He stirs confusion about the veracity of settled knowledge and, through sheer assertion, elevates belief to the status of truth. He criticizes those who would question him or hold him accountable, condemns media and insults women. It often feels like Trump has taken ideas such as Twitter and weaponized them.

Twitter is a leap forward in the democratization of media, a live feed from every individual’s perspective. Truth emerges from collective participation. It’s disappointing to see its promise distorted

Claiming to own the truth is an assertion of power. We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety, but Twitter enables us to consider it from those we trust. The platform requires character, if only in 140 characters.

More than one person has suggested that today’s Twitter comments are the equivalent of yesteryear’s writings on bathroom walls. President Trump is doing his best to confirm that observation. Again and again, he has crossed the line of common decency. That’s a disappointing outcome for social network designed for the free exchange of information and ideas.

The damage from Trump’s tweets even has members of his own party suggesting that he stop, or least better consider, his use of Twitter. Rep. Barbara Comstock, a Republican who represents Loudoun, is one of them.

The Richmond News Leader is another. “Please make him stop tweeting,” the newspaper editorialized following the president’s latest Twitter attack, another particularly nasty insult on a network journalist who’s a woman.

We disagree with the advice. We encourage the president to use all available channels to communicate with a diverse and complex nation. We just wish he’d impart information vital to the American experience rather than behave like a bully or a petulant child.

The nation and our county can learn on a platform that’s integral to information transactions of citizens. So stop embarrassing yourself, Mr. President.


with each tweet, I love our President more! With the media unable to provide the news without their obvious bias, I appreciate the POTUS tweets.  Tweet on President Trump!  MAGA!

I really thought Trump might be the most thin-skinned person alive.  Now I know better.  Journalists are even more thin-skinned as demonstrated by their hysteria when the object of their attacks dares to criticize them back.

Excellent!  Trump lives rent free in the minds of the editorial staff.

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