In 2012, the Pope got his first Twitter account, @Pontifex. After Pope Benedict XVI unexpectedly stepped down that same year, the account was shut down, only to be revived again in 2013 after Pope Francis I took over. However, all of Benedict's Tweets were deleted. They weren't archived. They were just gone, never to be seen again.
When President Obama got his official Twitter account last year, @Potus, I wondered if the same thing would happen there. Would, once Obama left office, we lose that piece of history for good? There's really no precident for this; no other President before Obama has ever had an official social media account.
Turns out that the answer is no, as the White House reassured all of us on Monday, the President's social media activity over the last eight years was not all in vain.
While all the Tweets posted to the @Potus account will be deleted when either Hillary or Trump take over the Presidency on January 20, instead of being gone forever, they will be transferred over to a new handle, @Potus44, which will contain all of President Obama’s tweets. It will be accessible to the public on Twitter.
The same thing will happen to other handles as well, including the official White House account (@WhiteHouse), the official handle for the First Lady (@FLOTUS), the handle for the White House Press Secretary (@PressSec), and the Vice President's account as well (@VP). All of them will be wiped clean, but will be accessible like all other Presidential records, which means you'll probably have to go the Obama Library to see them (is it worth it to take a trip to Chicago just to see what Michelle Obama was Tweeting about?)
The new @Potus44 account will be handled by the National Archives and Records Administration, which also archive all of the deleted Tweets.
This doesn't just apply to Twitter, but every single official social media account, including Tumblr, Medium and YouTube. All will be archived and cleaned. The White House's Facebook and Instagram accounts will also will be archived and then cleaned. Again, the public will be able to access them at Instagram.com/ObamaWhiteHouse and Facebook.com/ObamaWhiteHouse.
"The President has made clear that a smooth transition between administrations is one of his top priorities, and digital is a key component of that effort," Kori Schulman, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief Digital Officer, wrote in a blog post.
"While much of the digital transition is unprecedented in the United States, the peaceful transition of power is not. There are some important principles we can work from."
Anyone catch that not so subtle dig at Donald Trump right there?
The President on social media
Social media has, without a doubt, changed the way politicians interact with voters. We've seen that with the White House and President Obama, both of which have used social media to get their message out unfiltered, without the need to go through traditional media.
It launched the @POTUS Twitter account in May of last year. His first Tweet has been liked over 414,000 times, with over 276,000 retweets. Then an official Presidential Facebook page came in November. The POTUS Twitter account now has 11.1 million followers, which the account will get to keep, while the Facebook page has nearly 2.6 million likes.
President Obama has been, as Schulman called him, the first “social media president.”
(Image source: whitehouse.gov)