President Joe Biden just inherited the @POTUS Twitter handle - but he didn't get its more than 33 million followers
- The millions of followers on the official presidential accounts, including @POTUS, didn't transfer to Biden on Wednesday.
- This will be the second time the presidential Twitter accounts will pass to another president.
- Trump inherited almost 14 million followers from Obama in 2017, and that count quickly increased after Inauguration Day.
When President Barack Obama left office in 2017, his administration urged Twitter to pass along not only the official accounts for the president and the White House but their millions of followers to President Donald Trump. Twitter appears to have complied.
That won't be the case now that President Biden has inherited the @POTUS handle, according to Biden's digital director, Rob Flaherty.
Flaherty tweeted a few weeks ago that the company informed the Biden team that it "will have to start from zero" with its follower count.
—Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) December 22, 2020
The @POTUS account had about 33 million followers as of Wednesday morning. After Biden's swearing in, the following count was wiped clear, but it quickly regained about 1 million followers by noon.
The Biden transition team told Business Insider that the @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and @PressSec accounts would all start at zero followers. Twitter confirmed in a blog post that the accounts "will not automatically retain the followers from the prior administration." Instead, Twitter will send a one-time notification to users who follow @JoeBiden or @KamalaHarris to suggest they follow the transition team's account, @Transition46, which will be rebranded as @WhiteHouse, according to the Biden team.
The team also said Facebook was allowing presidential accounts and their followers to be transferred to the Biden administration.
Flaherty referred to a Wall Street Journal report in which a Twitter spokesman, Nicolas Pacilio, said Twitter would transfer about 12 official presidential accounts to the Biden administration, including @POTUS and @WhiteHouse, after resetting their passwords.
On January 20, 2017, when Obama still held the @POTUS account, it had 13.7 million followers, archived webpages show. After the account transferred to Trump, that count briefly dropped to about 4 million before rising back up to 14.4 million. The Journal noted that there were technical glitches during the transfers in 2017.
Trump quickly grew his follower count - it sat at 15.5 million by February 17, 2017.
Obama was the first sitting president to use a Twitter account. Jason Goldman, who, under Obama, was the first White House chief digital officer, told The Journal that the @POTUS account was created so that future presidents could use it as well.
While Trump has used Twitter as his de facto mouthpiece, he hasn't used the official presidential Twitter account - he has used his personal account, @realDonaldTrump. The @POTUS account often retweets posts from Trump's personal account.
Twitter may have granted the Trump administration's request to inherit Obama's followers in 2017, but the company and Trump have developed a rocky relationship. Twitter began fact-checking Trump's tweets in May. Some Republicans said it was evidence that Twitter and other tech firms suppressed conservative content.
Trump's status as a political leader has granted him permission to post with less risk, and it has prevented his tweets from being taken down or his account from being suspended. Those privileges were due to be stripped Wednesday upon President Joe Biden taking office. However, Twitter permanently suspended Trump from its platform following the January 6 siege on the US Capitol.
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