Tweeter in Chief No More
Bloomberg Businessweek|November 16, 2020
Donald Trump may find himself treated like an ordinary twitizen and without the special privileges provided to world leaders
Joshua Brustein, Sarah McGregor, and Jillian Ward

When President Trump leaves the White House on Jan. 20, one thing he’ll have to hand over to President-elect Joe Biden is his Twitter account.

Well, not that one. Trump will get to keep @realDonaldTrump, but the @POTUS account, which has 32.6 million followers, belongs to the president, whoever that may be. And while Trump has rarely used @POTUS for the diatribes and ramblings that have become synonymous with his presidency, he has used it to retweet messages from his personal account to tens of millions of people.

Trump’s loss of that additional megaphone is just one way the end of his term will set off a period of transition with his preferred online platform. While both sides have something to lose, Trump may be the one who will lose more.

The relationship between Trump and Twitter has always been complicated. His constant use of the social network has made it more politically relevant than ever before, and many Americans learned to turn to Twitter to keep track of what Trump is thinking. (One exception was Republican lawmakers, who so regularly denied reading his tweets that reporters took to carrying around printed-out versions of the president’s more controversial posts when seeking comment.) While the company’s mostly liberal employees are celebrating Biden’s victory, it’s become difficult to think of the Trump presidency without also thinking of his Twitter account and, conversely, to think of Twitter without President Trump.

This hasn’t always made things easy for Twitter Inc. Trump frequently violates the company’s rules against election misinformation and has crossed the line with other policies as well, such as glorifying violence and sharing Covid-19 misinformation. But Twitter also treats world leaders differently than regular users, and Trump has avoided the actions the company would likely have taken against him were he a private citizen. That special treatment will soon go away.

Trump was, of course, on Twitter before taking office. But the atmosphere surrounding social media content moderation was much different when he was pushing the boundaries as a candidate in 2016. Twitter didn’t spend much time discussing how to police his account before he unexpectedly won the presidency.

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