By Ken Yeung
As the end of the 2016 election cycle draws to a close, the White House has begun turning its attention towards the transition of power. And for the 45th President of the United States, getting acclimated to the White House will be a bit different than usual, especially in today’s age.
President Barack Obama has been steadily modernizing what an administration should look like, and this includes social media. So as January 20 inches closer, some may be wondering what his team will do with the president’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social accounts. The White House has heard you and revealed how it will smartly pass along the digital presence of the most powerful person 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 that 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 — she shared that where possible, the administration will seek to ensure that all the “material” will still be accessible where they were created. Lastly, her team is working to ensure that the existing digital assets that have previously been created can be repurposed by the next administration.
That being said, 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. The content there will be archived and transitioned to new accounts, specifically 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 and keep it operational. In the meantime, all petitions and the official White House responses will be archived with the National Archives.
The digital president
When Obama took office in 2008, he accelerated the move towards a more accessible office, including being the first president to tap into social media and technology. From not only Twitter to Facebook, YouTube to Vimeo, Myspace, Snapchat, and even Facebook Messenger, the 44th president has taken strides to bring his message beyond traditional television and newspaper.
He was the first to establish the role of chief technology officer, currently helmed by former Google executive Megan Smith, and 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 at the White House after Obama’s term is up remains to be seen, but officials have repeatedly said that they’re still in the fourth quarter and are racing towards the end.
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