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Donald Trump Appears Confused Over What Free Speech Protections Mainstream Media Have

During the social media summit at the White House on Thursday, which featured very few actual social media companies and was instead attended mostly by far-right social media users, President Donald Trump expressed a strong dislike for mainstream news media over its use of free speech.

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Trump explained in comments he gave at the White House that he did not believe what the media engaged in today constituted what free speech actually was, HuffPost reported.

“See, I don’t think that the mainstream media is free speech either because it’s so crooked,” Trump said. “It’s so dishonest. So to me, free speech is not when you see something good and then you purposely write bad. To me, that’s very dangerous speech, and you become angry at it. But that’s not free speech.”

Trump did not explain in his comments how mainstream media is crooked, and in the past, when disparaging news organizations like CNN or the New York Times, he has used the term “fake news” to do so, without actually demonstrating that the news is fake.

As an analysis from PolitiFact from 2017 pointed out that Trump’s use of the term is often utilized as a means to highlight news stories he doesn’t like, and is not often a real complaint of stories with dubious reporting. In other words, when Trump says something is “fake news,” it’s often, in reality, news that was legitimately published that he wants to discredit.

Even if reporting were “fake,” or mistakenly published a contention about him that turned out to be untrue, the president may not be able to do much about it. It appears that Trump has a disconnect regarding the rules that exist for the media, particularly when it comes to reporting on public figures.

The standard set by New York Times v. Sullivan, for example, requires “actual malice” to be proven — that is, public figures must demonstrate that the news agency that reported wrongly on them did so knowingly, disseminating information they knew was suspect or flat-out wrong.

Trump did not assert any violations of actual malice in his lambasting of the media on Thursday.



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