Photo Credit: shutterstock
If you’ve been following any of the big social media personalities like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or Dan Crenshaw who recently were elected into the U.S. House of Representatives, you’ve probably noticed a change in how they post content to social media platforms like Instagram or Twitter. According to the Members’ Congressional Handbook, they are officially barred from communicating any official government business on their personal social media feeds, so they’ve been quickly creating brand-new social media accounts that keep them on the safe side of the law.
Two sets of social media accounts
That has led to a sort of two-tiered system of social media accounts – a large account with as many as 2 million followers (as in the case of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) and a much smaller account with just a fraction of the number of followers. Thus, the personal @AOC Twitter account has 2.6 million+ followers, while her official Twitter account, @RepAOC, has just 75,000 followers.
Presumably, since the new Congress is only a few weeks old right now, the followings for the new accounts will, over time, eventually catch up to the size and scope of the original accounts. But it’s still startling for some to wake up and realize that nobody is following you anymore. As Rep. Dan Crenshaw tweeted out on his new official Twitter account, “Well I guess I am back to having no followers. Thanks Ethics Rules.”
Reasons for the new ethics rules
So why have the Congressional ethics rules changed in 2019? One big reason has to do with the need to maintain a clear divide between personal life and official government business. Thus, according to the ethics rules, the official account can only include matters related to official government business, such as updates on a crucial policy vote or the official ruling of a House committee. The personal account is the place where you’d tweet about your breakfast or lunch, or where you’d handle all of your re-election details. For example, when Ocasio-Cortez gave a speech at the Women’s March, she posted a 4-minute clip from it on @AOC and not on her official @RepAOC account.
Implications for 2020
The big question, of course, is how these new rules will impact upcoming Congressional races in 2020 and beyond. Theoretically, an incumbent might be at a disadvantage to an upstart challenger in a Congressional race when it comes to social media. A challenger would not be bound by the same ethical rules as a sitting House member, right? Thus, someone like Rep. Dan Crenshaw, who appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” would no longer be able to post funny videos on his official House Twitter account. As a result, some people who follow one of his accounts (but not the other) might not be getting the same information.
And these rules could also impact the 2020 presidential election, if only indirectly. For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who recently threw her hat into the ring for the 2020 Democratic nomination, recently posted a brief video of herself drinking a beer on Instagram. But she did so from her personal account, not from her official account.
Going forward, young politicians who grew up using social media (and older politicians trying to appear young) are going to have to adjust to a brand new reality. For the past two years, we’ve been hearing scandalous stories about politicians who use their personal email accounts and personal email servers for official government business. So, a year from now, we might be hearing the same types of stories about politicians who use their personal social media accounts for official government business.
Read More: Donald Trumps Twitter account vs The World