First Draft published an in-depth report today diving into how television news amplified Donald Trump's Twitter claims about election integrity, showcasing the ability of social media to short-circuit the editorial practices of mainstream media and drive the news agenda. GDELT provided the underlying dataset that scanned television news to identify Trump tweets and resolve them against the Trump Twitter Archive. This is the second of our collaborations with them, the first in October of last year offered a first glimpse at these results that have now been updated through his Twitter ban:
From Donald Trump’s first tweet in May 2009 to his last before Twitter suspended him in January 2021, he was a prolific user of the platform, sharing 56,571 posts (including retweets). Over the years, as Trump shifted from businessman to TV reality star, from candidate to president, a symbiotic relationship between his Twitter feed and television news emerged. Trump’s tweets started to drive the news agenda, and as the ratings appeared to respond positively to the president’s almost-daily stream of consciousness, the mutually reinforcing relationship took hold. We set out to study this relationship, focusing on the ways cable news covered Trump’s tweets in his final year of office. We gave special attention to tweets during this period that included claims about the integrity of the US presidential election — both his predictions ahead of November 3 and his complaints after Election Day. As we continue to make sense of the events at the Capitol on January 6, we have to understand how that narrative was spread not only by Trump himself, but also amplified by the major 24-hour news networks.