The latest complaint coming from the Biden-Harris transition team is over Twitter followers. Twitter decides the followers of White House Twitter accounts, which exploded from 26 million followers at the end of the Obama administration to roughly 60 million by the end of the Trump administration. Those followers will not be turned over to the Biden team.
Biden’s digital director said in a tweet, “In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama’s Twitter followers on @POTUS and on @WhiteHouse – at Team 44’s urging. In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero.”
Cameron French, spokesperson for the Biden-Harris transition team, told CNN, “Twitter’s reluctance to transfer millions of followers from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration unnecessarily politicizes what otherwise should be a routine transfer of communication from one administration to the next.”
French continued, “The Obama-Biden Administration built out social media accounts and followings that were handed over to the Trump Administration immediately and fully upon taking office. This wasn’t about politics; it was about ensuring no disruption in the ability of the executive branch of government to directly communicate its policies to the country. Especially in times of crisis, the American people deserve access to information in a variety of forms including social media. … Twitter has failed to articulate a clear reason for why they have chosen this abrupt reversal in policies, a decision that flies in the face of how other digital platforms are handling this transition.”
In 2017, when President Trump took over, the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts each had over 13 million followers. Currently, the @POTUS account has 33.2 million followers and the @WhiteHouse has 26 million.
Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio told CNN the White House accounts “will not automatically retain their existing followers. Instead, Twitter will notify followers of these accounts to provide context that the content will be archived and allow them the choice to follow the Biden administration’s new accounts. For example, people who follow @WhiteHouse will be notified that the account has been archived as @WhiteHouse45 and given the option to follow the new @WhiteHouse account.”
On Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported that a spokesman for Twitter said Donald Trump’s Twitter account @realDonaldTrump will be under a higher risk for more strict censorship once the President leaves office:
“Mr. Trump is currently able to tweet with less risk, compared with private citizens, of having tweets taken down or his account suspended. Mr. Trump’s Twitter account, which has more than 88 million followers, will no longer receive special privileges when he becomes a private citizen. The loss of privileges reserved for world leaders and public officials would mean that if Mr. Trump violates the site’s rules, those tweets would be taken down rather than labeled in the future. Mr. Trump’s tweets have been labeled by the company repeatedly both before and since the election, often with a warning that “this claim about election fraud is disputed.”