Twitter Says Trump Will Lose the @POTUS Account, Whether He Concedes or Not
The presidential Twitter account will pass to Biden on inauguration day
In January, Joe Biden will be sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, and inauguration plans are underway despite attempts by President Trump and his supporters to delegitimize the election’s outcome.
However, it’s become clear that Trump has no intention of peacefully transferring power to his predecessor. And since he’s refused to provide the Biden team access to government email, for example, one’s left to wonder if he’ll refuse to relinquish his social media accounts, as well.
But Twitter confirms to OneZero that should Trump decline to hand over the keys to @POTUS, they will be removed from him.
A Twitter representative told OneZero that the POTUS account will be transferred to Biden come inauguration day.
“Twitter is actively preparing to support the transition of White House institutional Twitter accounts on January 20, 2021,” Twitter’s spokesperson told OneZero. “As we did for the presidential transition in 2017, this process is being done in close consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration.”
This transition occurred in 2017 when former president Barack Obama gave the POTUS and White House social media accounts to Trump and his team. According to Twitter, this occurred as Trump was being sworn in.
There are analogous accounts on Facebook. A representative for Facebook said they expected the transition to be handled just as it was in 2017.
“In 2017, we worked with both the Obama Administration and incoming Trump Administration to make sure the transition of their Facebook and Instagram accounts was seamless on January 20, and we expect to do the same here,” the spokesperson said.
Obama was the first president to use social media, and set a precedent for how these accounts should be used and their records preserved for history. In 2016, the White House announced a digital transition plan for content generated on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, iTunes, and Myspace. The Obama administration deemed that social media posts should be archived under the 1978 Presidential Records Act, facilitated by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), which preserves “records created or received by the President or his staff,” the White House wrote in a 2009 blog post.
As part of this plan, Obama’s tweets from @POTUS were subsequently ported to the @POTUS44 account. His tweets from @POTUS were removed, but the account’s followers remained. (This was uncharted territory for the White House and Twitter at the time, and a scripting flaw accidentally caused half a million users to follow @POTUS — now belonging to Trump — after they’d unfollowed the account once Obama was no longer using it.)
A nearly identical process occurred on Facebook, and Obama’s archive now exists on a page called the “Obama White House.”
Trump’s @POTUS tweets will be moved to @POTUS45, which is currently a locked account named “transition.” (At one point, the POTUS45 account was suspended for unknown reasons.) Archival accounts for Vice President Mike Pence, First Lady Melania Trump, and the White House press secretary are similarly locked, and slated to become repositories for their tweets.
Government watchdogs have criticized Trump’s use of social media as it pertains to the Presidential Records Act. Earlier this year, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) urged NARA to take precautionary steps to ensure the Trump administration is properly preserving social media and other White House records. While NARA is not an enforcement agency, meaning it cannot compel Trump to store his deleted tweets, it can notify Congress of suspected noncompliance.
“The National Archives has advised the White House that it should capture and preserve all social media communication that the President posts in the course of his official duties, including those that are subsequently deleted, as Presidential records, and the National Archives has been informed by White House officials that they are, in fact, doing so,” a NARA spokesperson told OneZero. “Consistent with the Presidential Records Act, the National Archives will take custody of the records on Inauguration Day.”
(The White House has previously insisted that Trump is following the law and saving social media records.)
Ultimately, the loss of these presidential accounts is unlikely to impact Trump’s social media presence. He will no doubt continue to rely on @realDonaldTrump as a primary platform, however it remains to be seen whether special concessions made by Twitter and Facebook, which have opposed the removal of Trump’s account and tweets, will hold once he’s a civilian.
“This admin has stood out in terms of its use of social media but also its abuse of social media,” Donald Sherman, CREW deputy director, told OneZero.
Update: This article has been updated to include a comment from Facebook.