How many followers does the U.S. president's official Twitter account have?
Right now it's over 33.2 million, but that number will drop to zero after President-elect Joe Biden takes over the official @POTUS account on Inauguration Day.
Twitter has confirmed that the institutional White House Twitter accounts will not "automatically retain their existing followers."
Biden's team is pushing back against Twitter's decision, which is a reversal from the last presidential transition. Former President Barack Obama's 13 million followers were moved to the new @POTUS account after President Trump took over.
The White House accounts include @WhiteHouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS, @PressSec, @Cabinet and @LaCasaBlanca, each of which has large a following.
The social network will instead notify followers that they can follow the new account if they choose. Accounts will be archived — for example, the Trump-era @WhiteHouse account will be archived as @WhiteHouse45.
Biden's team pushed back against Twitter's decision in an email exchange with the company, Biden's digital director, Rob Flaherty, said in a tweet. He also clarified that the decision was from Twitter, not from the Trump administration.
"Especially in times of crisis, the American people deserve access to information in a variety of forms including social media," Biden-Harris Transition spokesperson Cameron French said in a statement. "Twitter's reluctance to transfer millions of followers from the Trump Administration to the Biden Administration unnecessarily politicizes what otherwise should be a routine transfer of communication from one administration to the next."
French said Twitter has failed to articulate a reason for why the followers will be wiped.
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
"As we did in 2017, Twitter is actively working with the US government to support the transition of Twitter accounts across administrations," Twitter spokesperson Nick Pacilio said in a statement.
Jason Goldman, who was previously Twitter's head of product and later the White House chief digital officer for Obama, said the @POTUS account was intended to be used by whoever is in office.
"Obviously the followers who are part of that account are part of the value of building up that institutional asset," Goldman told The Wall Street Journal. "Just like whitehouse.gov — the website — is another asset that remains from administration to administration."
Obama was the first U.S. president to use Twitter, but Trump has wielded the platform in a different way, which he once described as "MODERN DAY PRESIDENTIAL."
The president has used it to candidly express his opinions, to announce hirings and firings, to attack his opponents and to make official statements.
This year, Twitter took unprecedented steps to combat disinformation by adding labels to potentially harmful and misleading tweets. Trump's tweets were often the target of these labels as he baselessly promoted the idea that widespread election fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential race.
Once he leaves the White House, future Trump tweets that violate the platform's policy will be more likely to be removed.
His account could also face suspensions — just like any other private citizen's account.