On January 21, 2017, millions of people will watch as the reins of the presidency are handed from Barack Obama to Donald Trump as the latter is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. However, there will be another subtler transition as the Twitter handles of @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and @VP also change hands.
President Obama was the first president to have a social media presence. His firsts on social media include being the first president of the United States on Twitter with the official @POTUS handle, the first to go live using Facebook from the Oval Office, and the first to use Snapchat.
Hello, Twitter! It's Barack. Really! Six years in, they're finally giving me my own account.
— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
The White House, under direction from President Obama, released a digital transition plan for how it plans to curate and preserve all of the numerous photos, tweets, and posts from the 44th president of the United States. Thankfully, not one thing will be deleted. Instead everything will first and foremost be preserved and archived with the National Archives and Records Administration. That includes everything from the social media accounts to the petition page, We The People, to the current WhiteHouse.gov site.
Accessing Archived Tweets and Photos
Don’t worry, however. You won’t have to send in Freedom of Information requests to see the archived materials. Instead, all of the tweets associated with @POTUS will be shifted over to @POTUS44, a new Twitter handle that will be maintained by the NARA. The process will be the same for all of the Twitter handles associated with the Obama years. Michelle Obama’s tweets will shift from @FLOTUS to @FLOTUS44, and Joe Biden’s archived handle will be @VP44. All previous content will be wiped clean, so President Trump will start with a clean Twitter slate, yet maintain the 13.5 Million followers.
The current petition website, We the People, found at petitions.whitehouse.gov, will shutter its doors and be archived along with the rest of the 44th president’s WhiteHouse.gov website. They will be preserved at the newly created site, ObamaWhiteHouse.gov. It’s up to the incoming Trump administration whether or not they want to continue to use the petition page to gather ideas. The code behind the voting page has been made open source, so should Trump and his staff wish to make use of it, the tools are there.
Every video and photo made during the eight years that President Obama held office will also be archived with the NARA at full resolution. The media will also be available on their original sites with the addition of the “44” suffix to differentiate that content from the content of the administration currently in office.
Will the Trump Administration Use Them?
Of course, just because the handles and tools are available to the incoming administration doesn’t mean they’ll use them. Donald Trump’s personal Twitter handle, @realDonaldTrump, boasts 19.9 million followers, so it’s unlikely that President Trump will eschew that large of an audience for his tweets.
It’s entirely possible that the @POTUS account could remain largely inactive or just parrot what President Trump is saying on his own account. The @VP account falls to incoming Vice President Mike Pence whose Twitter following stands at 1.03 million. The @VP account will then give him a boost to 2.45 million followers. The first lady’s Twitter account has a huge following with 6.37 million followers.
For posterity, here is Donald Trump’s first tweet ever, way back on May 4, 2009:
Be sure to tune in and watch Donald Trump on Late Night with David Letterman as he presents the Top Ten List tonight!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 4, 2009
The Trump administration hasn’t announced any plans to keep using the petition website as of yet.
[Featured Image by Susan Walsh/AP Images]