How Biden Becomes @POTUS: A Twitter Transition Breakdown

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert -Joseph R. Biden
CBS

The multi-step process will begin with the archiving of official tweets sent during the Trump administration.

On Jan. 20, as Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, another handoff will also be taking place. That's when Twitter will begin the process of transferring the official White House Twitter accounts to the members of the new administration.

The accounts affected by the transfer include @whitehouse, @POTUS, @VP, @FLOTUS and @PressSec.

Twitter says the multi-step process starts with transferring the current accounts, which have been operated by President Donald Trump's administration for the last four years, to the National Archives and Records Administration, where their tweets will be archived for public access. After Twitter completes the archival process, Twitter will transfer ownership of the accounts to the Biden administration.

Several key members of the Biden administration have already created Twitter accounts that will transition into the official accounts upon inauguration. They include @Transition46, which will become @WhiteHouse, and @PresElectBiden, which will become @POTUS. A new account will also be added: @SecondGentleman, which will be used by Vice President-elect Kamala Harris' husband, Doug Emhoff.

The Twitter accounts will not retain their followers after they are transferred to the Biden administration. Currently, @POTUS has 33.3 million followers, but those followers will disappear and Twitter users will have to elect to follow the account once Biden assumes control.

The U.S. has been holding inaugurations since George Washington became the country's first president, but the Twitter handoff has only taken place once before, when the social media giant facilitated the digital transition for outgoing President Barack Obama and incoming President Trump in 2017.

The transition process for the social media accounts of elected officials has become more important in recent years as it has become clear how powerful these platforms are in sharing messages with supporters and constituents. Trump, in particular, has faced scrutiny over his use of Twitter, which he used frequently from his personal account throughout his presidency. On Jan. 8, Twitter permanently suspended him from using its platform over "risk of further incitement of violence" after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol.