As the 2016 election cycle draws to a close, the White House has begun turning its attention toward the transition of power. And for the 45th president of the United States, the process of getting acclimated to the White House will diverge a bit from the usual.
President Barack Obama has been steadily updating our idea of what an administration should look like, and this effort extends to social media. So as January 20 inches closer, some may be wondering what his team will do with the presidential Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social accounts. The White House has heard you and has revealed how it will smartly pass along the digital presence of the most powerful office in the free world.
Peaceful digital transition
In a blog post, Deputy Chief Digital Officer Kori Schulman explained that, as part of the transition, all materials the White House has created will be preserved with the National Archives and Records Administration, including tweets, snaps, videos, photos, and everything that was produced online. But this data won’t be wiped from the internet — Schulman shared that whenever possible, the administration will seek to ensure that all the material will still be accessible where it was originally published. Her team is also working to ensure that existing digital assets can be repurposed by the next administration.
When either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump officially assumes the presidency, they’ll be given access to the @POTUS Twitter handle and its more than 11 million followers. All the tweets made under Obama will be removed, but will be accessible under the new handle @POTUS44. This same plan will be enacted for associated accounts, including @WhiteHouse, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, and @VP.
The White House’s Instagram and Facebook accounts will also be passed down to Obama’s successor, but without pre-populated content. That content will be archived and transitioned to new accounts, specifically to ObamaWhiteHouse, for both Instagram and Facebook. The official Facebook accounts for Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with the Instagram accounts of First Lady Michelle Obama and Biden will be reassigned to new accounts with “44” affixed at the end of their respective handles.
And yes, the same will be done for all photos and videos shared on YouTube, Vimeo, Myspace, Flickr, and other online platforms where the White House has a presence.
Opening social data to the people
But since it’s the people’s house, the White House is opening up the data to the public, allowing anyone to download a zip file containing all of its social media content. It has begun inviting students, data engineers, artists, and researchers to submit creative ways to take advantage of this opportunity. There are several criteria that must be met before gaining access, however. First, each proposal must be an innovative way “to archive our social media account, and your proposal must be constructive in spirit.” Next, any produced product must be free and accessible to the general public. Lastly, projects have to be completed by mid-December.
Another significant tool developed under the Obama administration is the We the People petition website. The White House said that more than 12 million verified users have created more than 470,000 petitions. To ensure its continuation in some way, shape, or form, the team has open-sourced the product and will work with future administrations to try to keep it operational. In the meantime, all petitions and official White House responses will be archived with the National Archives.
The ‘digital president’
When Obama took office in 2008, he accelerated the move toward a more accessible office, and he was the first president to truly tap into social media and technology. From Twitter to Facebook, YouTube to Vimeo, Myspace, Snapchat, and even Facebook Messenger, the 44th president has taken pains to extend his message beyond traditional television and newspaper channels.
He was the first to establish the role of chief technology officer, currently helmed by former Google executive Megan Smith, and he has enlisted the help of some of Silicon Valley’s best, including bringing on board former LinkedIn data scientist DJ Patil as the country’s chief data scientist.
Whether these innovations continue in the White House after Obama’s term remains to be seen, as officials have repeatedly said that they’re still in the fourth quarter and are racing toward the end.
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