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Over the past two months, there has been a lot of discussion about the “peaceful transition of power” between the incumbent Obama White House and the incoming Trump administration. This “peaceful transition” refers to all the logistics of making sure that the new administration is ready to go on Day 1. But have you ever wondered what’s going to happen to all the social media accounts created by President Barack Obama and his team?
The first social media president
In many ways, this is uncharted territory. Until President Obama, we had never seen a “social media president” before. But President Obama was the first sitting president to use Twitter (he launched @POTUS in 2015) and the first president to go live on Facebook from the Oval Office. Obama was the first White House that actively used social media platforms like Medium, Tumblr, YouTube and Snapchat.
Over that time, of course, Obama’s team built up millions of followers and generated thousands of hours of video footage and millions of photos. The good news is that all of that content – down to the very last tweet – is going to be handed over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for permanent archiving. Just as previous presidents handed over all their faxes, handwritten letters and notes for safekeeping for posterity, the same thing is happening in the digital space.
The nuts and bolts
That’s the easy part, to be honest. The hard part is figuring out what to do with the actual accounts. Imagine if you had just spent the past 8 years of your life building up the world’s greatest social media presence, and then you’re asked to hand all that over to someone else – someone that you’ve only met in person one time. You might try to hold on to all that content, or ask the newcomer to come up with a new username, or at the very least, ask the newcomer to guarantee that he (or she) wouldn’t erase or delete everything you’ve worked so hard to create.
And that, in short, is what the White House digital team has already been doing – figuring out how to make all that work, down to the nuts and bolts of assigning a new Twitter handle to hold all of the old tweets (@POTUS44) that will be maintained by the National Archives. To make sure that no content is inadvertently (or purposely) deleted, there will be a copy made of all content and handed over to the NARA.
To make sure that this content is more than just a dusty trove of information that only certain scholars can access, it will be opened up to the public to use as they see fit. As the White House’s Deputy Chief Digital Officer explained in a blog post, it will all be done transparently, so that everyone knows what is happening to each account.
A peaceful transition
What is truly unique about American democracy is that President Obama won’t make President Trump start over from scratch. For example, he’ll be handed the @POTUS twitter handle, complete with 12.7 million followers. No tweets will appear on the timeline, but it will be ready to go on Day 1 for the Trump team.
And the same goes with all of the White House’s other social media accounts – all the old information will be scraped out and sent to the archives, but the new Trump Administration will be starting with a remarkably robust social media presence. There’s just one real question remaining: Will Donald Trump still use @RealDonaldTrump (which has 17.6 million followers) to send out his tweets, or will he migrate over to @POTUS?