The White House this week published an overview explaining its plans for a "digital transition" between the departing Obama administration and the incoming 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump. It details how each White House social media account (and position-specific handles like @POTUS, @FLOTUS, and @VP) will be transferred to Trump's administration. Since Obama is the first commander in chief to have a significant, consistent presence on most of these apps, there's not much in the way of precedent for figuring out how it's all supposed to work. So the White House developed some of its own.
For the big ones, the switchover will happen on Inauguration Day: January 20th. That's when Donald Trump will assume the @POTUS Twitter account, for instance. The White House says that the account's followers (currently over 11 million) will carry over to the next Oval Office occupant, but tweets will be zeroed out so that the 45th president can start fresh. President Obama's @POTUS tweet history will be moved over to a new account, @POTUS44. That page is already live, though it's currently protected.
But being given the @POTUS handle doesn't mean that President-elect Trump will be required to actually use it. Trump has indicated that he plans to continue tweeting from his personal username, @realDonaldTrump, once sworn into office. It's currently unclear what the @POTUS handle will be used for — if anything — under this scenario.
Good question, @billclinton. The handle comes with the house. Know anyone interested in @FLOTUS?— President Obama (@POTUS) May 18, 2015
As for Facebook and Instagram, the White House's current pages will be cleared of all posts, but follower counts will remain. The Obama administration's content will be relocated to Facebook.com/ObamaWhiteHouse and Instagram.com/ObamaWhiteHouse. The White House says this strategy will extend to other platforms like Tumblr and YouTube as well. In making the "unprecedented" transition, Obama's administration is focusing on three goals:
- Preserve everything (tweets, snaps, Facebook posts, etc.) with the National Archives and Records Administration. "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," wrote Kori Schulman, the White House's deputy chief digital officer. NARA is also getting full-resolution copies of photos and videos published online so they can be preserved at maximum quality.
- Make sure the content remains available on the platform where it was originally posted. Instagram photos stay on Instagram. YouTube videos stay on YouTube. Archiving social media activity with NARA is one thing, but the White House wants to ensure that everything stays within easy (digital) reach for years to come. Your guess is as good as mine for how that'll work on Snapchat.
- Pass on all digital "assets" to the next administration. This applies to all the obvious White House accounts, but also tools like We The People. The next president isn't required to keep using the website that's currently home to over 470,000 petitions, but the White House has open sourced the tool in hopes that he or she will carry it forward.
Obama's WhiteHouse.gov website will be frozen on January 20th and moved to a different domain, making room for a new, redesigned White House site from the incoming Trump administration. Last, the White House claims that its social media activity will be easy to download (via .zip archives) and save; it's giving early access "to people who are interested in building something for the public" that makes those eight years worth of content "useful and available for years to come."