President Biden is going to need some Twitter followers. Twitter wiped out all followers from the @POTUS and @WhiteHouse accounts once Biden was sworn in, today, January 20th, rather than transferring the accounts’ existing followers over to the new administration. That’s what what Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, said would happen in late December.
Here’s the full list of changes today, according to Twitter:
Trump administration Twitter accounts are now publicly archived and include: @POTUS45, @WhiteHouse45, @VP45, @PressSec45, @FLOTUS45 and @SecondLady45.
Accounts for the White House, President, Vice President, First Lady and White House Press Secretary have now inherited their new institutional usernames:
@Transition46 has become @WhiteHouse
@PresElectBiden has become @POTUS
@SenKamalaHarris has become @VP
@FLOTUSBiden has become @FLOTUS
@PressSecPsaki has become @PressSec
A new account, @SecondGentleman, is also live.
Twitter said in December that the accounts for @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet, and @LaCasaBlanca would also have their followers wiped. As you can see in the images above, the @POTUS, @VP and @WhiteHouse accounts are quickly accumulating new followers. The Wall Street Journal reported that there was originally contention between the Biden camp and Twitter over whether followers would transfer over.
This is a reversal from what Twitter did in 2017 when the Trump administration took over accounts from the Obama administration. Back then, Twitter essentially duplicated the existing accounts, creating an archive of Obama-era tweets and followers and building a new set of accounts for the incoming administration that retained all of those followers without any of the tweets.
Twitter didn’t say why it changed the policy this time. Twitter told The Verge it is “in ongoing discussions with the Biden transition team on a number of aspects related to White House account transfers.” Biden’s team seems to be unhappy about this change in policy, given the significant digital advantage they’ll be losing. Flaherty said the transition team “pushed back and we were told this was unequivocal.”
On Inauguration Day, anyone who follow one of the handles being transitioned will receive a notification that the account is being archived, a Twitter spokesperson said in December. They will also be given the option to follow the Biden administration’s new accounts. There are no details yet on what that notification will look like for users.
While the president has plenty of pulpits to speak from, there’s no denying that Twitter is a major communications tool for the president after these last four years. Those accounts have significant followings to rebuild, too: @POTUS had 33 million followers, @WhiteHouse had 26 million, @FLOTUS had 16 million, and @PressSec had 6 million as of December.
Donald Trump’s @POTUS account will be renamed @POTUS45 and “frozen as-is,” the Journal reported. He would have originally been in control of @realDonaldTrump, albeit with fewer protections than before, if Twitter had not banned him for inciting violence on January 8th.
Update December 22nd, 5:23PM ET: This story has been updated with new details from Twitter on the transition of accounts.
Update, January 20th at 12:15PM ET: Twitter has now transitioned the Presidential accounts.