Handing Over the Twitter Launch Codes: Social Media and Presidential Transition

By William Cawley (@DigiTrey)


As the president-elect begins his transition into the White House, the outgoing president and his staff must now prepare to hand over of power. This handover will include intelligence briefings, nuclear codes, and Twitter handles.

Wait, what?

It’s true. Social media accounts such as @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and the White House’s Facebook page need to be handed over to the next president and his staff for their use. This should be an interesting transition because the President of the United States lacked a separate Twitter account until 2015.

In fact, it is under President Obama’s tenure that government went online with social media in a big way. Due to the extensive use of social media by President Obama, there are quite a few accounts to hand over. Handing over such a public platform is unprecedented.

As he will with the brick-and-mortar Oval Office at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., the new President will be furnishing an empty room. All old posts will be removed and the 45th President will start from scratch.

One question you may be asking is, “What happens to all the old posts?”

According to the White House, all tweets, Instagram posts, and other social media updates will be stored at the National Archives. In fact, the entirety of the Obama Administration’s digital footprint will remain active online. However, it will be shifted over to new handles like @POTUS44. These new accounts will be maintained by the National Archives as a matter of public record.

The federal government storing social media posts produced in the United States is not new. The Library of Congress has been attempting, and so far, failing, to capture all tweets produced for a searchable database. Luckily, this transition should be smoother, with relatively fewer posts to store.

New questions will surely come up during this transition. Will the president-elect be allowed to keep his personal account? Will announcements, such as Supreme Court nominees, be made on social media first? How will White House press secretaries handle a president who tweets at 3 am?

These are all areas that will soon be addressed in the days leading up to, and after, Inauguration Day.





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Lapowsky, I. (2016). White House Prepares to Hand Over @POTUS to the Next POTUS. Wired.com Retrieved from https://www.wired.com/2016/10/white-house-prepares-hand-potus-next-potus/

Scola, N. (2015). Library of Congress’ Twitter archive is a huge #FAIL. Politico.com. Retrieved from http://www.politico.com/story/2015/07/library-of-congress-twitter-archive-119698.html

Sculman, K. (2016). The Digital Transition: How the Presidential Transition Works in the Social Media Age. TheWhiteHouse.gov. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2016/10/31/digital-transition-how-presidential-transition-works-social-media-age

Published by

UNT Eagle Strategies

Class members of the social media class in the Mayborn School of Journalism