When President Trump leaves office next month, what will happen to the various White House Twitter accounts?
According to a Biden transition official, they’ll all be handed over to the new administration, but there’s a catch: As of right now, they won’t have any followers.
That’s according to Biden digital director Rob Flaherty, who said on Tuesday that they’ve been told by Twitter they’ll have to rebuild the follower lists from scratch.
The White House maintains a series of official Twitter accounts, including @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, and @VP that have been active since the Obama administration. They’re used to communicate with the public and promote administration policy, and are not intended to be used for political purposes. (Though Trump officials often ran afoul of those rules.)
In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama's Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse -- at Team 44's urging.— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) December 22, 2020
In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero. https://t.co/wj1R02SmiK
Flaherty said that when the Obama administration handed off to the incoming Trump administration, transition officials made sure to include followers as they passed over control of the accounts. The @WhiteHouse and @POTUS accounts each had more than 13 million followers when Trump was inaugurated, according to Bloomberg News. Today, they have 26 million and 33 million followers, respectively.
A Twitter spokesperson told Bloomberg News that the company “has been in ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers.”
Of course, the most high-profile account of them all, @realDonaldTrump, is Trump’s personal account and thus will remain with him when he leaves office, though it will no longer enjoy certain privileges, according to the Wall Street Journal.
As a private citizen, Trump’s tweets will be subject to Twitter’s rules regarding incitement of violence and other issues, according to the paper. Currently, the company makes an exception to many of its standards when the tweets come from public officials. For instance, Twitter has taken to labeling many of Trump’s tweets that spread election-related disinformation, instead of removing them. That could change once Trump leaves office, though whether tweets will be removed remains unclear.