Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Social Media Clouds a Political Environment

Joshua Gillin, Tampa Bay Times reporter and PolitiFact employee
Gillin discussing the controversy sparked over Trump's recent tweet
76 percent of the statements made by Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump are false.

Social media has been a large proponent in quicker communication from speaker to audience. Trump is one of many politicians to take advantage of the speed and low costs of using social media to market themselves. Oftentimes, however, the information posted on social media is invalid. One solution to check the validity of these posts is PolitiFact: a website begun in 2007 by the Tampa Bay Times to check the accuracy of politician’s statements.

According to PolitiFact worker and Tampa Bay Times reporter Joshua Gillin, approximately 40 percent of registered voters use PolitiFact. The website uses a ‘Truth-O-Meter’ ranging from ‘mostly true’ to ‘pants on fire’ to rank the validity of statements by politicians. Gillin said that many of the statements they analyze come from the social media pages of politicians, like Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

“This election year, social media has been elevated to a new art form,” Gillin said. “Social media can frame how people view politicians. A lack of substance in political campaigns is nothing new, it’s not an invention, but the speed in which these things can be sent out through social media is phenomenal.”

An incident took place on July 3 in which Trump tweeted a post depicting Hillary Clinton with the Star of David bearing “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever!” with hundred dollar bills in the background. “Crooked Hillary--makes history” was Trump’s caption. According to Gillin, this is just one of the issues with politicians’ social media--offensive tweets with a lack of substance.

“What is this tweet saying?” Gillin said. “Nothing. It makes an accusation. It had previously been posted on an anti-Semitic, white supremacist message board. He reposted the tweet with a circle over the Star of David. You could still see the points under the circle though. The thing about tweets like this is that they really get sent out there. They gets retweeted ten thousand times.

Carmel High School senior Julianna Merry said that social media in the hands of politicians can be effective some of the time.

“Politicians take it too far by trying to reach a younger market,” Merry said. “At the same time, social media can be effective because it’s such a casual platform that I feel like I get to know who is running better.”

Merry said she’s seen firsthand the shadiness politicians can possess through inappropriate and immature tweets by politicians. As a result of this, Merry believes websites like PolitiFact should continue to thrive.

“The way Trump uses Twitter is sketchy,” Merry said. “He will tweet things and then delete them as if he knows they are wrong. That makes me question his trustworthiness. A lot of politicians just post what their followers want to see. Some go the route of posting radical statements to shock readers. We need PolitiFact to help us find the truth.”

Donald Trump's tweet posted on July 3, 2016