Ethics in Social Media-Application: Donald Trump

By: Samantha Nadel

Feature image: Courtesy of Gage Skidmore

In my opinion, there is no other individual who more clearly exemplifies the topics covered during our class discussion of ethics in social media than our president, Donald Trump. At a time where sexual misconduct is one of the most prevalent social issues facing our culture today, it is no wonder that conversation regarding this topic is omnipresent on our social media channels. Through my analysis of President Trump’s activity on Twitter, I have come to the determination that he embodies a contradictory persona– not only regarding his opinions on important social issues such as sexual misconduct, but also concerning the ethicality of his social media usage itself.

 

In class, we learned that social media is meant to be just that—social. Generally speaking, we have expectations that an individual will be transparent with who they are and what they believe on social media. President Trump seems to have no hesitation frequently expressing himself via Twitter, regardless of whether his tweets will be considered controversial or not. Trump argues, “Twitter and other forms of social media are the key way that [I’m] unable to get [my] unfiltered messages directly to [my] supporters.” In this sense, Trump can be considered to be behaving ethically on social media, as he is displaying his authentic self/he is not pretending to be anybody else (in contrast to President Obama, whose tweets were written for him).

However, many of Trump’s tweets themselves can be considered unethical. In the wake of the allegations of sexual assault leveled against ex-aide Robert Porter, Trump not only put out this tweet, but later contradicted himself, leaving the American public wondering where he really stands on this hot-button issue. Here is Trump’s original tweet regarding the accusations against Porter:

 

This tweet is unethical because it is emblematic of “poor taste,” as we discussed in class. It shows a lack of empathy for the women who were sexually assaulted by Porter, a practice shunned in this day in age, especially with the recent legal sanctions imposed on high-profile men like Harvey Weinstein, Matt Lauer, Larry Nassar, etc. Trump’s tweet is in direct contrast to the #MeToo social media campaign, which began as a response to the Harvey Weinstein allegations to demonstrate the pervasiveness of sexual assault in the workplace . Sexual assault against women is immoral behavior; therefore, Trump taking the side of the man in this case constitutes an unethical response.

 

Trump’s tweet not only revived questions about his character that could further erode his numbers amongst women,” but also, “provoked debate about the morality of the administration itself, and the quality of the people who Trump chose to employ.” Moreover, the fact that Trump later called Porter “sick” raises further questions regarding his own moral character. Where does Trump really stand on this issue?

 

Overall, the public nature of social media is both a blessing and a curse—it allows us to engage with public figures that we otherwise would not be able to, such as our president, but knowing this information has the potential to breach the trust that many citizens may have once had in our president/administration. As we learned in class, trust is the foundation of engagement. As exemplified through his Twitter account, if President Trump does not support women in cases of sexual assault, or worse, if he expresses conflicting viewpoints on the issue, how can American citizens possibly trust him?

Twitter: @SamanthaNadel

This Article Has 9 Comments
  1. Sierra Goodman says:

    Trump has certainly made a lot of noise on social media and while he is being his apparent authentic self that does not mean it is ethical. To combat unauthenticity and maintain transparency accounts like Obama’s do explicitly communicate someone is writing their posts for them unless it is signed with their initials. Thank you for pointing out the problematic issues of Trump’s tweets counteracting the #metoo movement and sexual harassment/assault cases coming to the surface.

  2. Celine De Clercq says:

    Wow, what an interesting, potentially controversial article. I really appreciate your analysis, and certainly Trump is one of the strangest characters I’ve ever watched. I like that your look over the tweets brings to light an issue that has been the basis of his entire campaign and presidency: people voted for him because they thought he was authentic/spoke in ways that regular people understood, but he is simultaneously a representation of absolute nonsense/resembles a cartoonish characterization of a person. It really is quite a conundrum and certainly an upsetting one.

  3. Stacia says:

    Hi Samantha,
    Thanks for the great post. I appreciate your willingness to discuss politics and sexual assault, both topics everyone seems to dance around. I think it’s funny that people say, “well at least Trump is being authentic and writing his own tweets” … I’m sorry, but to be honest I’d prefer my president not tweet and spend his/her time solving the larger issues at hand.

  4. Audrey Marlatt says:

    I find it so interesting that you chose this topic and to focus on a specific individual, and I’m glad that you did. Donald Trump is such a prime example for poor ethical decisions on social media, specifically Twitter. It is so easy to just type a small thought in to this platform and send it out without a second thought because of the accessibility and easiness of use. I think my favorite part about Twitter is that content is never gone, it is always found and remembered. Donald Trump was using Twitter far before he became president and some of my favorite moments include when people use their accounts to quote a tweet prior to his presidency with a separate tweet commenting on something he said that completely contradicts his past ideals. Twitter has become politically saturated within the past few years so I’ve almost used it more in a way to learn about what is going on and to tap in to the conversations that maybe I wouldn’t hear about otherwise.

  5. Josh Hoffman says:

    I very much agree with mostly every point stated in this post. Trump’s antics personally are too much for me, which is one of the main reasons I try to stray away from twitter. Donald Trump is a terrible example for the youth in today’s society, because he lacks respect for others, doesn’t think about some of the things that come out of his mouth before he says them, and acts as though there are no repercussions for some of the things he says.

  6. Gabriel Ovetz says:

    Samantha,
    Great post. I haven’t really spent a ton of time thinking about the ethical dilemmas behind Trump’s social media content, but you definitely opened me up to it. I wonder if there’s any potential outcome where ethics will be held to a higher standard on social media platforms, but if so then by who? Interesting topic discussing the connection between politics and social media ethics!

  7. Zach Rosen says:

    This was a great read, Samantha. President Trump is an extremely interesting and relevant case study on the ethics of social media, and I think you hit the nail on the head. I feel like I’ve heard over and over that employers will check out someone’s social media presence before hiring them, and personally I would be nervous to have any of those tweets on my timeline if I were applying.

  8. Jeanne Schneider says:

    Thanks for writing about such controversial topics Samantha! I agree with what you’re saying here, except one part. I know President Obama had people writing his posts for him, which doesn’t bother me for two reasons: 1. His words rarely angered other world leaders to the point of nuclear threats and 2. He spent his time running our country instead of paying attention to social media.When you think about it in that sense, isn’t there a time where someone else managing your social accounts is actually ethical? Some might say it would be MORE ethical for Trump to let someone manage his Twitter….

  9. Victoria Schmidt says:

    What an interesting post! I think you’ve touched on some key expectations that we place on individuals to be transparent with who they are and what they believe on social media. Trumps PR has intrigued me during his time running and in office. As you noted, “President Trump seems to have no hesitation frequently expressing himself via Twitter, regardless of whether his tweets will be considered controversial or not.” By not pretending to be anybody else, in contrast to President Obama who had his tweets written for him, Trump is able to get his unfiltered messages directly to supporters. This concept is going to revolutionize both PR and politics and am intrigued to see how this impacts future elections.

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