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Communication in the Age of Trump

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Edited By Arthur S. Hayes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio fireside chats to connect with millions of ordinary Americans. The highly articulate and telegenic John F. Kennedy was dubbed the first TV president. Ronald Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, had a conversational way of speaking to the common man. Bill Clinton left his mark on media industries by championing and signing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Barack Obama was the first social media presidential campaigner and president. And now there is President Donald J. Trump.

Because so much of what has made Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency unconventional has been about communication—how he has used Twitter to convey his political messages and how the news media and voters have interpreted and responded to his public words and persona—21 communication and media scholars examine the Trump phenomenon in Communication in the Age of Trump. This collection of essays and studies, suitable for communication and political science students and scholars, covers the 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump presidency.

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16. Emerging Free Speech and Social Media Law and Policy in the Age of Trump (Arthur S. Hayes)

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16. Emerging Free Speech and Social Media Law and Policy in the Age of Trump

ARTHUR S. HAYES

Fordham University

President Donald Trump’s tweeting—calculated it seems to stir controversy for almost every news cycle—is likely to lead to long-term constitutional and regulatory reassessments of social media use the president never intended. Almost the same thing can be said about the controversies leading up to the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Russian election interference held in late October and early November 2017 (Romm, 2017). Few during the race to the presidency—including the winner, no doubt—would have predicted that tech companies would be the targets of calls for increased government regulation, particularly with the champions of deregulation controlling the U.S. House, Senate and the Presidency.

In 2017, plaintiffs brought two separate lawsuits against Trump that challenged his right to block access to his Twitter account and to delete his and others tweets. The president blocks citizens from his Twitter account simply because they criticize him. Consequently, ten months into his presidency, Trump tried to persuade a judge to throw out a lawsuit brought by the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University challenging his practice of blocking users based on their viewpoints as unconstitutional under the First Amendment (Brief for the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University v. Trump, 2017).1

The online censorship controversy, however, is bigger than...

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