Outgoing President Donald Trump is set to receive a rude awakening on Jan. 20, 2021 on his favorite social media platform: Twitter. That day, Trump will no longer see a picture of himself on the popular @POTUS account—the official presidential Twitter account, although Trump prefers to use his own personal, @realDonaldTrump, as the world knows—but rather a picture of Joe Biden, the 46th president of the U.S.
As reported by multiple outlets, on Jan. 20, Twitter will transfer the control of the @POTUS, as well as about a dozen other White House institutional accounts, to the Biden administration. The company confirmed this to Gizmodo on Saturday. Unlike Trump, who has still refused to concede the election and is actively working to overturn it, Twitter has accepted reality and is respecting the will of the American people.
The General Services Administration, which needs to “ascertain” or formally determine the winner of the election in order for the new presidential administration to use its transition funds and get other access, has refused to ascertain Biden as the winner. The president-elect needs this formality in order to begin the transition process.
“Twitter is actively preparing to support the transition of White House institutional Twitter accounts on January 20th, 2021. As we did for the presidential transition in 2017, this process is being done in close consultation with the National Archives and Records Administration,” the company said in an emailed statement to Gizmodo, linking to the National Archives website. It added that it would meet with the Biden-Harris transition team.
NARA is the nation’s official record keeper. Of all the documents and materials created by the U.S. federal government, NARA keeps about 1-3% because they are “so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.” The intense matter-of-fact tone makes me want to giggle, but since people at NARA probably take their job as record keepers very seriously, I shall refrain.
According to Politico, all existing tweets on official Trump White House accounts, such as @whitehouse, @VP and @FLOTUS, will be archived and the accounts will be reset to zero tweets.
Trump White House accounts will then presumably be locked and their handles changed, as has happened with past presidential administration officials, per the outlet. President Barack Obama’s tweets from the @POTUS account, for instance, can be referenced in the locked account, @POTUS44. Meanwhile, Obama press secretary Josh Earnest’s tweets from the @PressSec account can be viewed on the @PressSec44 page. NARA maintains the Obama White House accounts, Politico reported.
Now, will this mean that we’ll stop hearing from Trump on Twitter? Oh no, he’ll no doubt still be around, tweeting raving conspiracy theories from @realDonaldTrump. But besides not having his face on the @POTUS account, which for someone as narcissistic as the president has to be a real blow, Trump will also lose his special Twitter protections that allow him to routinely break the company’s rules and have his content remain on the platform because it is in the public’s interest.
This means that Twitter may apply warnings and labels or limit engagement of certain tweets, a company spokesperson told the Verge on the day major networks announced that Biden had won the election.
“Twitter’s approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials is based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context,” the spokesperson said. “This policy framework applies to current world leaders and candidates for office, and not private citizens when they no longer hold these positions.”