Biden administration to 'start from zero' followers as Twitter plans reboot for @POTUS @WhiteHouse accounts
Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, tweeted on December 22 that Twitter has told the transition team that “as of right now, the Biden administration will have to start from zero” when it takes over the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter accounts.
In 2016, the Trump admin absorbed all of President Obama's Twitter followers on @POTUS and @WhiteHouse -- at Team 44's urging.— Rob Flaherty (@Rob_Flaherty) December 22, 2020
In 2020, Twitter has informed us that as of right now the Biden administration will have to start from zero. https://t.co/wj1R02SmiK
When asked to respond to Flaherty’s tweet, Twitter spokesperson Nicholas Pacilio released a statement that said that the company was in “ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers”.
However, Flaherty fired back in another tweet about Twitter's "unequivocal" stance on the matter of starting afresh. He doubled down on his assertion that his email exchanges with Twitter proved that the social media platform was forcing the Biden administration to start from scratch, with zero followers, breaking from protocol followed for the official handles till now.
Pacilio responded to Flaherty's tweeted provocation with a short tweet of his own. "Hey Rob, no need I'm familiar with it!" The diplomatic but aggressive tweet exchange underlines that Biden's team and Twitter might have gone a few rounds over this issue before Flaherty sought to publicize what was happening behind closed doors.
Hey Rob, no need i'm familiar with it!— Nick Pacilio (@NickPacilio) December 22, 2020
Twitter had transferred ownership of the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse Twitter handles to the Trump team in 2017 once Donald Trump became the 45th president. Trump inherited all of former President Barack Obama’s followers.
Since Trump has been in office, the number of followers for the @POTUS account has more than doubled -- jumping from 13 million to 33.2 million. The @WhiteHouse account currently also has an additional 26 million followers.
During his presidency, Trump has continued using his personal Twitter account, @realDonaldTrump, a handle he will retain once he steps down. Twitter had earlier announced, on November 20, that it would hand over the keys to @POTUS, @WhiteHouse, and other official accounts after President-elect Joe Biden recites the Oath of Office on January 20.
According to information released by the Biden transition team, Twitter will issue a one-time notification suggesting users who follow Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris on Twitter follow the “transition46” account which will be rebranded as the WhiteHouse account, but the POTUS, FLOTUS and “PressSec” accounts will start at zero followers.
Donald Trump's Twitter account may also see some changes when he leaves office since it will be treated like any other Twitter handle owned by a private citizen. Future posts may be deleted or his account suspended entirely if his account repeatedly violates Twitter's rules.
Currently, Trump's personal account and the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts are covered by the platform's approach to world leaders, candidates, and public officials whose tweets are left untouched.
According to Pacilio, this guideline is "based on the principle that people should be able to choose to see what their leaders are saying with clear context". However, Pacilio has also added caveats to this guideline -- Twitter still retains the right to apply "warnings and labels, and limit engagement to certain Tweets," including tweets by the President of the United States.