Social Media

They took all the tweets and put 'em in a tweet museum

Twitter cancelled @realdonaldtrump, but the National Archives will bring presidential tweets back via the Trump library website.

Editorial credit: pcruciatti / Shutterstock.com 

Image credit: pcruciatti / Shutterstock.com

As president, Donald Trump governed via Twitter. He used the social network to announce the hiring and firing of top officials, whip votes in Congress and train the ire of tens of millions of followers at lawmakers and journalists when he disagreed with them.

In the waning days of his presidency, Trump used social media to elevate patently false conspiracy theories about vote rigging and – many people are saying – helped create the conditions that fueled the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

Twitter pulled the plug on Trump on Jan. 8, with a permanent ban for violating the social media service's "glorification of violence" policy and because the company felt Trump's tweets amounted to exhortations for future violence. There are also bans in place on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch and Snapchat.

As private companies, social media platforms are within their rights to restrict or withhold access to users based on their behavior and violations of the terms of use. But as president, Trump's tweets – along with his executive orders, memos, emails, texts messages, meeting logs and other archival material – are presidential records and are owned by the public.

That means that Trump's tweets will be back, on a limited basis in archival form.

The National Archives and Records Administration is charged with stewardship of federal and presidential records, and as of this writing has already archived 70 Trump administration social media accounts including 58 institutional and individual Twitter accounts– a list is available from the NARA's Trump Presidential Library Website. The Twitter accounts have been renamed with a "45" in the handle to indicate they are archived from the Trump presidency and are accessible via Twitter's platform.

The @realdonaldtrump account is not among these.

The Twitter suspension of Trump's personal account creates an extra degree of difficulty for NARA, and for plans on how to present the record of his activity on the social media platform.

Plans for archiving @realdonaldtrump tweets haven't been finalized, according to a statement released by the National Archives Public and Media Communications in response to questions from FCW, but as of now a few things are known.

Archived tweets will cover just the term of Trump's presidency and not his 2016 campaign or any other political activity before taking office.

Tweets won't be available via Twitter to browse. Instead, NARA is planning to allow for an export of @realdonaldtrump content – along with other personal accounts – for download.

As of now, there are no plans that would allow scholars or other users to link to individual tweets. It's not yet known whether the archive will include engagement data – number of likes and retweets – or individual replies to tweets. It will not be possible for users to engage with Trump's archived tweets.

Nor is there a timeline for posting the @realdonaldtrump archive. NARA says it has more than 500 terabytes of Trump records, including 20 terabytes of social media posts, to work through.

The vendor ArchiveSocial, which managed social media archives at the Trump White House, is working with NARA. The company received a sole-source contract from NARA estimated at just under $200,000, to maintain direct access to Executive Office of the President social media archives after Jan. 20, to "allow NARA staff to work with the source files to design [archival web pages at the Trump Library website] and experiment with different presentations of the information," according to publicly available contracting documents.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, New York Press, Architect Magazine and other publications.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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