How Donald Trump’s “War With The Press” Affects Online Privacy

via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, President Donald Trump held a press conference. Trump spent much of his time at the podium attacking the press: telling reporters to sit down and stop talking, deriding them for asking tough questions, and using the term “fake news” and “dishonest media” to describe the work of the seasoned White House press corps that sat in front of him.

A few weeks prior, Trump’s Chief Strategist Steve Bannon stated that “the media has zero integrity, zero intelligence, and no hard work” and that they should “keep [their] mouth shut and just listen for a while.”

For these kind of statements to come out of the White House is an unprecedented event in American history and does not bode well for the future of media freedom.

Journalists have a symbiotic relationship with privacy. Without privacy rights journalists cannot protect their sources, keep sensitive information confidential, or protect themselves from the people in power they are criticizing. In other words, without privacy, journalists cannot do the important work of criticizing the people in power who may be working to whittle away our right to privacy.

Unfortunately, these views, which Trump espoused all throughout his campaign, seem to have caught on. According to a September Gallup poll:

“Americans’ trust and confidence in the mass media “to report the news fully, accurately and fairly” has dropped to its lowest level in Gallup polling history, with 32% saying they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media. This is down eight percentage points from last year.”

This state of affairs could be disastrous for journalists and for the public at large.

If you care about press freedom, it’s time to start thinking about privacy rights too. And of course, the reverse is true as well. If you care about privacy, it is essential to protect the rights of the people whose job it is to report on privacy issues. Acknowledging the importance of both of these rights is yet another aspect of combatting the rising authoritarianism of our current political period.

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