President Biden is going to need some Twitter followers. Twitter plans to wipe out all followers from the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts once Biden is sworn in on January 20th, rather than transferring the accounts’ existing followers over to the new administration, according to Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director. The accounts for @FLOTUS and @PressSec are among around a dozen others that are set to be transferred to the new administration under the same policies, according to The Wall Street Journal.
This is a reversal from what Twitter did in 2016 when the Trump administration took over accounts from the Obama administration. Back then, Twitter essentially duplicated the existing accounts, creating an archive of Obama-era tweets and followers and building a new set of accounts for the incoming administration that retained all of those followers without any of the tweets.
Twitter hasn’t said why it’s changing the policy this time. Twitter told The Verge it is “in ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers.” Biden’s team seems to be unhappy about this change in policy, given the significant digital advantage they’ll be losing. Flaherty said the transition team “pushed back and we were told this was unequivocal.”
While the president has plenty of pulpits to speak from, there’s no denying that Twitter is a major communications tool for the president after these last four years. Those accounts have significant followings to rebuild, too: @POTUS has 33 million followers, @WhiteHouse has 26 million, @FLOTUS has 16 million, and @PressSec has 6 million.
Donald Trump’s @POTUS account will be renamed @POTUS45 and “frozen as-is,” the Journal reported. He’ll still be in control of @realDonaldTrump, albeit with fewer protections than before.