Politics In Transition: What happens to @POTUS now that there’s a new president?

I had a post ready to go this week about Postmates’ difficult fundraise a couple of days ago, but with so much happening with presidential politics, I couldn’t help myself.  Also, I should mention that @emilypetroni14 wrote a great post (https://isys6621.com/2016/11/13/how-the-election-was-won-with-less-and-more-tweets/) which largely inspired my question!   What happens to all the digital assets that have been created over the last 8 years?

President Obama is the first  president we’ve had in the digital age.   When he took office platforms like Facebook and Twitter were just catching on, iPhones were slowly gaining market share, and Uber was just a way to impress a date for a ride to dinner instead of a common form of transportation.  But a lot’s changed since then, and a lot of planning is in place to ensure that our 45th President will be in good shape to also govern the digital landscape in the West Wing.

APTOPIX Obama TrumpOn Halloween the White House posted a fascinating piece about the digital transition of power.  To briefly summarize, they note that over the last 8 years their digital footprint has grown significantly.  In just 2009 the Office of Communications established a presidential blog, an email list for the public (mainly press releases, statements, and weekly addresses on Saturdays), and joined Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, iTunes and Myspace. In 2011 the White House even set up an online platform called We The People that allowed members of the general public to petition the White House on important issues.  Then in 2015 came the first ever tweet from a sitting president, appropriately from @POTUS (an acronym endearingly used by staff around Washington that was given rise during the inimitable series, West Wing, but I digress).  And recently, the White House has set up a Snapchat account and even created a story for the State of the Union.  For anyone who understands how unwelcome change is in Washington, D.C., this represents an incredible amount of progress on the administrative level, and a real willingness to stay connected to the people.

But once again, things have changed and in a little less than 70 days the inauguration of a new president will take place.  So what happens to all of those tweets and snaps once President Obama is gone?  Well, this is what staffer Kori Schulman, Deputy Chief Digital Officer at the White House had to say: “First, we are preserving the material we’ve created with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). From tweets to snaps, all of the material we’ve published online will be preserved with NARA just as previous administrations have done with records ranging from handwritten notes to faxes to emails. Second, wherever possible, we are working to ensure these materials continue to be accessible on the platforms where they were created, allowing for real time access to the content we’ve developed. Finally, we are working to ensure that the next president and administration – regardless of party – can continue to use and develop the digital assets we have created to connect directly with the people they serve. ”

potus

Sound good?  Everything gets archived.  But the accounts will be transitioned to the National Archives for safekeeping, and so that people can access them easily. In the meantime, Kori is looking for a few good men and women to help out with preserving this data, and the White House has opened up the floor for ideas, and you can click here to apply:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/participate/opening-our-data-public

 

5 comments

  1. finkbecca · ·

    Nice post. I wondered what would happen to the @POTUS account too and actually read an article in the New York Times about it the other day. I think it’s interesting that they’ll completely clear the Twitter feed for the new President, it’s a good idea but something I hadn’t thought of originally. I also think it’s really interesting that they will be archiving the posts. (Yet another reminder that what you say on the Internet sticks around.) This too makes sense, but is something I didn’t think about! Digital definitely changes the way things are done and we’ve got to keep up. Great job

  2. Interesting (and relevant) topic! It’s funny to see the shift in what is considered “National Archive” worthy in the digital age. I’m more interested to see if Donald Trump will abandon his personal twitter account once he takes office. It could be a strategic move for him to leave behind the old account and start with a clean slate. Similarly, will Donald Trump tweet on his own or will he need a team to approve of his posts (since it seems like he was lacking this before)?

  3. vicmoriartybc · ·

    To respond to the comment above me, I honestly don’t see Donald Trump ever using a team to approve his social media posts, like I’m sure Obama has done, because he seems to be throwing all the traditional rules of the presidency out the window. I also think he might not even bother using the @POTUS handle, which would be fine with me, so that in times when I miss President Obama, I can look back at his old tweets and pretend he’s still around. But I digress – I think it’s interesting how tweets and digital posts are now joining national archives and essentially becoming a part of history. Will Obama’s tweets someday be framed next to the Constitution?

  4. alinacasari · ·

    I’ve actually been wondering about this so thanks for such an informative post! So interesting to consider that these tweets are going to be added to the National Archives!! It’s kind of incredible to think about what is worthy of being saved and preserved in our history. I think this actually speaks to a much bigger societal change and how this archiving is going to be quite common in a few years. We can easily store digital content (it doesn’t take up physical space), but what is worth storing?? We don’t really know what will be important in the future, so we could essentially try and save everything that could be meaningful in the future. This could really help fact check and provide more sources in the future. Eventually, the past few years are going to be in our kids history books, and will the tweets be talked about? Based on how things are going right now it seems like probably so. It’s cool to consider that the original tweets will be preserved.

    It will definitely be weird to see tweets that aren’t from President Obama on the Twitter, but I guess it makes sense. Hard and sad to picture, but it will be weird to see such a switched perspective working from the same account. Great post!!

  5. It’s definitely hilarious that the White House administration is actually planning to archive and store records of the POTUS’ social media activity. In a way, it’s kind of like how people stored letters and tape recordings back in the day; tweets and other social media posts may be a big and popular thing right now, but I’m curious to see them become relics of the past once something even bigger takes the place of social media. And I honestly don’t see Donald Trump having any issues actively utilizing the White House’s digital assets with his Twitter activity during his Presidential campaign being more than enough proof.

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