Discursive Deflection: Accusation of “Fake News” and the Spread of Mis- and Disinformation in the Tweets of President Trump

Andrew S. Ross, Damian J. Rivers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

129 Citations (Scopus)


Twitter is increasingly being used within the sociopolitical domain as a channel through which to circulate information and opinions. Throughout the 2016 US Presidential primaries and general election campaign, a notable feature was the prolific Twitter use of Republican candidate and then nominee, Donald Trump. This use has continued since his election victory and inauguration as President. Trump’s use of Twitter has drawn criticism due to his rhetoric in relation to various issues, including Hillary Clinton, the size of the crowd in attendance at his inauguration, the policies of the former Obama administration, and immigration and foreign policy. One of the most notable features of Trump’s Twitter use has been his repeated ridicule of the mainstream media through pejorative labels such as “fake news” and “fake media.” These labels have been deployed in an attempt to deter the public from trusting media reports, many of which are critical of Trump’s presidency, and to position himself as the only reliable source of truth. However, given the contestable nature of objective truth, it can be argued that Trump himself is a serial offender in the propagation of mis- and disinformation in the same vein that he accuses the media. This article adopts a corpus analysis of Trump’s Twitter discourse to highlight his accusations of fake news and how he operates as a serial spreader of mis- and disinformation. Our data show that Trump uses these accusations to demonstrate allegiance and as a cover for his own spreading of mis- and disinformation that is framed as truth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1–12
Number of pages12
JournalSocial Media and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2018
Externally publishedYes


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