Biden becomes @POTUS: How the social media transition of power unfolded

WILMINGTON, DELAWARE - NOVEMBER 19: U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks as he addresses the media after a virtual meeting with the National Governors Association's executive committee at the Queen Theater on November 19, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Mr. Biden and his advisors continue the process of transitioning to the White House. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As Joe Biden was sworn in as the president of the United States, another transition of power took place on social media.

On Wednesday, Biden and his team gained access to a long list of official government accounts across the major social media platforms, including the @POTUS account on Twitter. With the tap of a button, the Biden administration inherited a digital megaphone with the potential to make news and shape the public image of the US government.

The transfer of these official accounts, which include not just those representing Biden and the White House but nearly every arm of government, has emerged as an important aspect of the broader transition of power, especially after Twitter became the favored online platform of former President Donald Trump.

“It certainly has a big symbolic value,” said David Lazer, a political science and computer sciences professor at Northeastern University. “The centrality of Twitter to Trump’s brand and identity has made the moment a lot more significant.”

Trump used his personal Twitter account, @realdonaldtrump, to make major policy announcements, fire staffers, attack critics and spread misinformation. His account was permanently suspended earlier this month following the deadly insurrection at the Capitol.

In addition to the @POTUS account, which was created during the Obama administration, Twitter transferred @WhiteHouse, @VP, @FLOTUS, and @PressSec to the new administration. Twitter also created a new account, @SecondGentleman, for Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’ husband Doug Emhoff.

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